Handmade Black Stained Hide and Fur Mask, Presumed Nunamiut, Alaskan

Regular price $185.00

This mask is one of the most extraordinary things I've had in my possession, for sure--a stunning, exquisitely crafted object that I find unbelievably beautiful and powerful. I I have done a fair amount of research, which has led me to believe that it is Native Alaskan, most likely made by a Nunamiut mask maker from the Anaktuvuk Pass--though I am not 100% certain, and indeed, this and the two others I have are superior to any others I have seen. Beginning in the 1950s, the Anaktuvuk Nunamiut began making Caribou hide masks--embellished with the fur of caribou, wolves, fox, black and grizzly bears, etc--at first for dances but then specifically to sell, for which they became renowned. Reflecting the specific skills and styles of their individual makers, these were sculpted around wooden head-shaped molds made for the purpose.

This hide used for this one has been stained black. The fur for the eyebrows, mustache and beard is black as well, but seems to have come from different animals as the eye brows are very wooly while the beard is much finer, perhaps bear.  Through the eyes holes show glass "eyes" (pieces of glass painted black and white). The whole thing fits perfectly over one's head and face, staying snugly in place without need to secure it.

I purchased this and two similar (but wonderfully different!) masks at the estate sale of a gallerist and incredible collector, who had an entire brownstone on Newbury Street in Boston.  Her gallery focused on the work of Haitian artists as well as Kuna Mola (fantastic cut and embroidered hand-made textiles made by the Kuna people of Panamá), but her collection showed her consummate curiosity and taste for unusual handmade objects from around the world.

This hide shows some age but this mask is in excellent, clean condition. It could certainly be framed, but I would rather hate to see it trapped behind glass and would myself be inclined to hang it directly on the wall via pins in the corners, or else display it tabletop over any sort of roundish object. It measures 15" from top to bottom along the exterior (raw) edge. and about 15 1/2" across (I measured nose to raw edge when folded: 7 3/4" on each side.)