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Frontal view of a Haida portrait mask with small open eyes and broad face paint in black, green and red

Portrait Mask

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

ca. 1840–60

wood, pigments

height: 8 ¼"

Inventory # N3784


acquired by The Audain Art Museum, Whistler, BC


George Terasaki, New York, NY


Macnair, Peter, Joseph, Robert and Grenville, Bruce.  Down From the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast. Vancouver: Douglas & MacIntyre, 1998, pg. 87, pl. 64

The masking traditions of the Northwest Coast First Nations are rich and diverse. Haida portrait masks were typically carved with a naturalistic quality and danced at important social occasions such as the potlatch. Made to be worn on the face, the performers enacted particular mythological scenes, relayed the oral history of a particular family or clan, or the history of the people it belonged to. Displaying portraits of specific individuals or a mythic ancestor, the performances dramatized communal and familial histories as well as representing historical or mythical events.