St. Michael's area; constructed of two planks pinned together with wooden pegs; a softly carved seal head emerges from the lower panel; panels pierced for attachments and feathers; with red, black, and hints of whitish blue pigment on outside of mask and red pigment on inside of eyes and mouth, length 14”. x width 18".
The use and symbolic nature of a mask is specific to both the creator and the dance it was created for. Most often, masks were carved for winter festivals to aid in the expulsion of evil or to honor inua or the spirits of game (Collins 1977: 16). Suggestions have been offered as to the meaning of certain features in masks. Specific to this St. Michael’s seal mask, the down turned mouth is in itself only occasionally symbolic. When it represented a seal it symbolized a bounty of food… Red lines were sometimes drawn around eyes, nose, and mouth on the reverse side of a mask… which probably had some relationship to a spirit (Ray 1967: 69). In addition, the two-plank construction has been found on other masks from the area and may have symbolic meaning… the board represented, variously, the universe, the sea, and the land (Ray 1967: 182-84).
Similar examples can be found in the collections of the American Museum of Natural History (Catalogue Numbers 60/ 2097, 60/5123, and 60/5073) and the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, formerly the Lowie Museum of Anthropology (number 2-1304).
Previously sold at Sotheby's Fine American Indian Art Auction, April 25, 1981, lot 214
Condition: Old split in wood with remnants of native cedar bark repair.