- Museum number
Wood human face mask for use in the Kwakiutl Winter Ceremonies. This large mask is carved with exceptional skill, the horizontal cross section containing a sharp, almost perpendicular angle so that the mask would fit right round the front of the head. Representing Nuhlmahl, a dirty unkempt creature, the imagery is said [by Bill Holm (University of Washington)] to derive from the wood figure on the prow of an early Euro-American ship on the Northwest Coast, but this idea is yet to be fully published. The head is surrounded by a carved mane of hair, painted a yellow or brown colour, with two exaggerated curvilinear ears that seem to be turning into hair. The domed forehead ends in three round segmented raised balls between the large raised eyebrows. These begin with vertical dashes next to the nose and continue with long downward sloping lines extending almost to the ears. The eyes, deeply set on almost flat planes, are cut with circular holes with copper surrounds. The raised cheeks extend down to raised, black painted whiskers, and a thin deeply carved mouth with downturned corners. The large smoothly carved 'Roman' nose is carved with circular openings for nostrils which are pierced through to the other side of the mask at the back. The face is painted red. The upper 40% of the rim is pegged with bunches of black horsehair. The interior is neatly carved with the the thick rim and nose neatly excavated, and the eyes forming slight domes projecting back towards the face of the wearer. The mask is very badly wormed, and has been broken in half down the axis. Much of the paint surface, over spongy decayed areas, has been replaced, and does not look original. It is possible that there was once a grommet, but there is, in the areas where you would expect the holes to be, much damage and restoration.
- Production date
Height: 33.50 centimetres (without hair)
Width: 25 centimetres
Depth: 19 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- From acquisition notes "ceremonial; Nulmal". Imagery commented on by Bill Holm (University of Washington). New description etc. by J.C.King, 18/6/1996. see JCH King `First Peoples, First Contacts' British Museum Press 1999
- On display (G26/dc7)
- Exhibition history
1976-1977 7 Oct-16 Jan, London, The Hayward Gallery
1977 16 Apr-19 Jun, Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Sacred Circles: 2,000 Years of North American Indian Art
1987 15 Jul-1988 Jun, Museum of Mankind, Introduction to the Collections
1988 15 Jan-1 May, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, The Spirit Sings: Artistic Traditions of Canada's First Peoples
1988 1 Jul-1 Nov, Museum of Civilization, Lorne Building, Ottawa, The Spirit Sings: Artistic Traditions of Canada's First Peoples
1989 10 Apr-1995 15 Jul, Museum of Mankind, Introduction to the Collections
1999 25 Jun-Present, BM Room 26; Gallery of North America, Case: "The Northwest Coast of America"
- Very poor. Badly wormed; broken in half down axis.
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number