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Large carved and painted wooden potlatch figure holding a copper - Donald Ellis Gallery

Welcome Figure

Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia

ca. 1840

wood, paint

height: 67 ¾"
width: 19"

Inventory # CN1663


acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA


George Tozier, Tacoma, WA
Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, No. 6/8722
Fred Rowland, New York, NY
Francesco Pellizzi, New York, NY


Donald Ellis Gallery catalogue, 1997, pg. 11


University of British Columbia, Museum of Anthropology, Nos. 1778 and 1779 - See: Art of the Northwest Coast Indians, Inverarity, University of California Press, 1950, pls. 250 and 251

University of British Columbia, Museum of Anthropology, No. 1800 - See: Kwakiutl Art, Hawthorn, University of WA Press, 1979, fig. 70

Raised to project power and authority, this imposing Welcome figure is carved in the form of a large standing human holding a copper before its abdomen. The oversized head with deeply carved eye sockets and prominent downturned mouth exhibits remnants of red and black paint. A thin corona frames the composition, bestowing gravity to this impressive carving. The figure likely represents a hereditary chief or his orator, and would have been carved for use during significant social gatherings. Given its considerable size and light weathering, it was likely placed outside the chief’s house. On occasion, the chief's speaker, hidden behind the work, would welcome guests arriving by canoe for important social ceremonies.

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