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Portrait mask with small open eyes and broad face painting in black, green and red - Donald Ellis Gallery

Portrait Mask

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

ca. 1840–60

wood, paint

height: 8 ¼"

Inventory # N3784


acquired by The Audain Art Museum, Whistler, BC


George Terasaki Collection, New York, NY


Donald Ellis Gallery catalogue, 2012, pl. 58


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.

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