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Painted wooden mask representing frog or toad's head, with moveable lower jaw. [MJD 24/08/2009]

Longer Description

Painted wooden mask representing frog or toad's head, with moveable lower jaw. The lower jaw is attached at either cheek with textile and wooden pegs. The tongue is painted red. Due to the tone of the unpainted areas of wood and limited grain definition the mask appears to be carved from either alder or yellow cedar. It has been carved from three pieces of wood - head, lower jaw and tongue - and assembled using a combination of cotton [?] textile, black leather and small wooden dowels that appear to be made from Western red cedar. [HR 4/11/2005]

Display History

This object featured in the 'permanent' display in the court of the PRM of masks from the north-west coast of America that was dismantled in 2004 (number 58 in the display). [DCF Court Team 2002-2004; JC 21 1 2009]

This object featured in the 'permanent' display in the court of the PRM of masks from the north-west coast of America that was installed in 2006-7, with the following text: 'CANADA, BRITISH COLUMBIA, HAIDA GWAII; HAIDA. Mask representing a frog. The moveable lower jaw made a croaking sound when the mask was danced. Possibly the work of Simeon Stilthda (circa 1799–1889). Collected by the Reverend Charles Harrison, in the 1880s and purchased from him in 1891; 1891.49.10.2.' [MdeA 3/9/2007]; JC 21 1 2009]

Research Notes

The following information comes from Haida delegates who worked with the museum's collection in September 2009 as part of the project “Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge”:
This mask was viewed alongside other masks on Thursday Sept 10, 2009. Christian White believed this mask was carved to be danced. Delegates observed that the dancer would need to shake their head to get the jaw to open and close. One delegate commented that this mask had a 'nice eye'. Gaahlaay (Lonnie Young) noted that using canvas in masks is a relatively recent technique. He further identified the mask as being made of alder wood. Nadine Wilson proposed that this is a toad, rather than a frog because toad's have lines down their back. Discussion of this mask and why it may be a toad, rather than a frog, can be seen on Tape 3, time 35:00, and Tape 4, time 1:43, which can be found in the Haida Project Related Documents File. [CAK 27/05/2010]

The attribution of this mask to Simeon Stilthda (c. 1799-1889) was made by Robin K. Wright in 'Two Haida Artists from Yan. Will John Gwaytihl and Simeon Stilthda Please Step Apart?', in American Indian Art Magazine. Vol. XXIII, no. 3 (Summer 1998), pp. 42-57, 106-107. Wright says that 29 masks can be attributed to Simeon Stilthda and that these can be divided into four basic types. This mask does not fit into these categories, but is one of 'a few unusual masks'; see p. 57, no. 4. Unfortunately, Wright mistakenly gives the accession number 1891.49.2 for this mask. [CW 11 6 98; JC 16 4 1999]

Members of the Haida Nation consulted December 2005 confirmed this as Haida [Laura Peers, 10/04/2006].

Primary Documentation

Accession book entry: 'From Rev. Ch. Harrison, 80 Halton Rd, Canonbury Sq. N. Collection of Haida objects collected by him.... - Mask = Frog's head. £45. [Purchase price includes 1891.49.1-110]

No additional information on catalogue cards. [JC 4 9 1996]

Written on object - Frog's head mask used in dances of frog tribe. Haida. C. Harrison Col. (MS. No.9) Purchased 1891. [DCF Court Team 14/4/2003]

Related Documents File - Correspondence between Jeremy Coote and June Bedford occurring in April 1999 regarding some confusion over this mask and several others. [MOB 25/9/2001]

Related Documents File - Discussion of whether the mask depicts a frog or toad can be viewed on Tape 3, time 35:00, and Tape 4, time 1:43, within the Haida Project Related Documents File. The Haida Project Related Documents File contains video of research sessions and interviews with Haida delegates from September 2009 as part of the project ‘Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge'. It also includes post-visit communications that discuss object provenance. For extensive photographic, video, and textual records documenting the Haida research visit as a whole, including but not limited to preparations of objects for handling, travel logistics, British Museum participation, transcribed notes from research sessions and associated public events held at PRM, see the Haida Project Digital Archive, stored with the Accessions Registers. Original hand-written notes taken during research sessions have been accessioned into the Manuscripts collection, in addition to select other materials. [CAK 02/06/2010]

Publications History

Discussed by Charles Harrison on page 86 of his Ancient Warriors of the North Pacific (London: H.F. and G. Witherby, 1925): ‘Perhaps little less notable was the frog's head mask, which was an important "property" in the dances of the frog clan. The lower jaw of this was operated by the wearer, and a grating sound was produced which was believed to be like the croaking of a frog. The wearer of the Mask would carry in his hand the carved figure of a frog squatting on bear's head, and this formed the handle of a dagger which was made of a piece of steel plundered long ages ago from a trading vessel. Its significance was to the effect that the man belonged to the frog totem and his wife to that of the bear.' [NM 25 2 1997]

Reproduced in black and white as figure 6 on page 6 of 'Haida Art in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, and the Rev. Charles Harrison', by June Bedford, in European Review of Native American Studies, Vol. XII, no. 2 (1998), pp. 1-10. Caption reads: 'Frog's head mask, attributed to Stilthda'. [JC 16 4 1999]

Reproduced as a drawing (by Dr J. B. Evans) on page 3 of the Newsletter of the Friends of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, No. 23 (January 1998), where it illustrates 'Revd Charles Harrison, Shaman Ku-te and General Pitt Rivers['s] Museum: A 19th[-]Century Missionary's Collection of Haida Art', by Joan Shaw, an account of a talk given to the Friends by June Bedford on Wednesday 12 November 1997. [JC 2 2 1998]

Item History

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