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Mask

Innu
Northern Quebec or Labrador

19th century

hide, paint
length: 12" (Incl. fringe)

Inventory # W3686

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Provenance

The American artist Charles Marion Russell (b. 1864 d. 1926)
By gift to the photographer and illustrator Carl Everton Moon (b. 1879 d. 1948)                    

Published

In Search of the Wild Indian: Photographs and Life Works

By Carl and Grace Moon, Driebe, Moscow, Maurose, 1997 pg. 350

Essay

Skin masks from the Innu of the Labrador region are rare. The few examples that are known to survive are primarily in museum collections and are all representations of the human faceThese masks are most often made from smoked caribou skin, though some dog, fox and sealskin examples are known, the latter likely from coastal dwelling Innu (see: Speck, Frank G.  Concerning Iconology and the Masking Complex in Eastern North America. University Museum Bulletin No. 1, Vol. 15, July, 1950. Philadelphia: The University Museum, 1950, pgs. 51 – 52). Their function appears to have been social rather than religious, and closely related to Labrador Inuit masking practices in the historic period. Clowning and lewd acts were performed by the masked dancer in a boisterous comedic spectacle, often accompanied by songs in which the audience would be asked to participate (see: Speck 1950, pgs. 51 - 52).

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