- Museum number
Large face mask, mostly of alder, deeply carved with bold, high, pointed cheeks, deep eye sockets, with conical orbs, large long eyebrows, painted formline designs in black, green and red, the paint apparently including mica, a separate mandible of red cedar, and moving eyes, the right eye of yew [reddish in colour], left eye of maple, side whiskers of [black?] bear skin, chin whiskers of [grizzly?] bear skin, ears pegged on, but now both missing, one remaining piece of balene pegged in top. Nails used with spruce gum to attach the skin. The mandible is nailed to face, and has twined 'Z' twist cedar bark, stick and mouth pieces for manipulation of jaw, with twine from jaw to eyeballs so they would move together. Straps of a thick fluffy skin, probably moose, but could also be elk. May well represent a bear face.
- Production date
Height: 28 centimetres
Width: 27 centimetres
Depth: 15 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Comment from Alicia Leppanen, Whatcon College, on 29 March 2013 "This is an excellent example of a Nahknohk mask, masks with a strange countenance and various powers. I was able to wear a mask like this in a potlatch."
- Not on display
- Fair; much of the bear hair is missing, along with pegged attachments at top.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This object is part of a collection donated on 18th May 1877 by Fleetwood Sandeman, heir to a successful wine merchant business. Sandeman had purchased the collection during a round-the-world trip he had taken in 1874-1875 with the archaeologist William Copeland Borlase, recounted in Borlase's journal "Sunways: A Record of Rambles in Many Lands". In the journal, Borlase describes the acquisition of the collection:
"March 9 . F. [Fleetwood Sandeman] bought a quaint collection of painted Alaskan gods at the "City Bank Saloon" [in San Francisco], which we subsequently packed and sent off home on board a sailing vessel Respigadera, insuring them for 75 dollars. The collection contained several big wooden gods, a little hairy god, a toucan and other animals intertwined in a way that reminded me of the figures on the monoliths in [John Lloyd] Stephens's work on Central America, a rude native representation (to please the Jesuits) of the Holy Trinity, besides boats, weapons belonging to Captain Jack, the Modock chief (whom our friend Colonel Curtis had condemned to be hanged, on account of his having killed a United States i [sic] general, and for several other atrocities), a wooden cup from Central America, a little stone pipe and arrow-heads, and a stone pestle and mortar, said to have been found in debris a hundred and fifty feet below the surface. Altogether they formed a good collection of native manufactures, and had been brought to the saloon for sale by the original collector. In the window, in order to attract attention, they were labelled "Gods taken in the Ashantee War", but the delusion was not kept up inside the shop. It was merely an American exaggeration, calculated to excite curiosity, and bring people in to look at them, and to "have a drink" at the bar; and, as an artifice, the proprietor assured us that the plan had succeeded admirably. The collection may now be seen in one of the cases at the Museum of Ethnology, at 103, Victoria Street, Westminster, to which F. has presented it."
['The Museum of Ethnology' is the Christy Collection, already part of the British Museum, but only brought physically to the British Museum building after the removal of the natural history collections to South Kensington in the 1880s. JCK 12 April 2011].
Not all of the collection described above reached the British Museum in 1877, and the fate of the missing pieces, which include the arrow-heads, the pipe and the "Holy Trinity", is unknown. This object is likely to be one of the "big wooden gods" mentioned. (JWD 11 April 2011)
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
CDMS number: Am1877C2.217 (old CDMS no.)