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Fire bag with floral embroidery and geometric beading work with long red beaded tassels | Donald Ellis Gallery

Fire Bag

Cree or Cree-Metis
Manitoba or Northwestern Ontario

ca. 1840

glass beads, hide, silk tape, commercial cloth, remnants of silk tape strap remain

height: 18"
width: 10"

Inventory # CW4314-127


acquired by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON


Collected by the Bishop of Montreal George Jehoshophat Mountain, Anglican Bishop of Quebec (1789-1863), in 1844 at Fort Garry, Manitoba by descent to Mountain's great grandson, Colonel A.J. Kerry, O.B.E. of the Royal Canadian Engineers (1906-1996). In his travel journal of July 10, 1844 Mountain notes: "the day was spent loading specimens of Indian workman-ship and formed no trifling addition to our baggage...Indian women were busy up to the last moment in finishing some trifling token of remembrance...they work in beadwork, embroidery with silk, dyed hair of moose, porcupine quills...The Fire-bags, which are sometimes of leather and trimmed with fur, are usually very richly and minutely wrought...The beauty, nicety, and correctness of the fancy-work executed by the women, contrasts strangely with the extreme rudeness of performance which I have seen..."
Phillips, London, 7/1/96, lot 273
Donald Ellis Gallery, Dundas, Ontario
Private collection, Toronto, Ontario


Donald Ellis Gallery catalogue, Toronto, 1997, pl. 13


Denver Art Museum, Cat. No. 1970.540 - See:Conn, Richard. Native American Art in the Denver Art Museum

Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979, pg. 80, pl. 81 for a hide pouch decorated with finely embroidered silk thread

Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Brown University, Cat. Nos. 48 and 49 - See: Duncan, Kate and Hail, Ruth. Out of the North: The Subarctic Collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Brown University. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989, pg. 133 (colour plates 1 and 2) for two Cree-Metis fire bags of similar, fabricated using wool cloth and decorated with glass beads

This early fire bag fabricated from hide, and decorated with fine silk embroidery, is of extremely rare form.