Item Records

This page shows all the information we have about this item. Both the institution that physically holds this item, and RRN members have contributed the knowledge on this page. You’re looking at the item record provided by the holding institution. If you scroll further down the page, you’ll see the information from RRN members, and can share your own knowledge too.

The RRN processes the information it receives from each institution to make it more readable and easier to search. If you’re doing in-depth research on this item, be sure to take a look at the Data Source tab to see the information exactly as it was provided by the institution.

These records are easy to share because each has a unique web address. You can copy and paste the location from your browser’s address bar into an email, word document, or chat message to share this item with others.

  • Data
  • Data Source

This information was automatically generated from data provided by Pitt Rivers Museum. It has been standardized to aid in finding and grouping information within the RRN. Accuracy and meaning should be verified from the Data Source tab.


Wooden mask of a male face with moveable eyes and red paint around the eyes and extending down each cheek. [CAK 24/08/2009]

Longer Description

Wooden mask of a male face with moveable eyes and red paint around the eyes and extending down each cheek. The mask is carved from a single piece of wood, except for the articulated eyes. The eyes appear to be made from the same type of wood and are painted white with black pupils. The reverse of the eyes are carved with rounded protruding sections that have been perforated and a string has been looped from a hole in the base of the chin, through a small metal hoop to the side of the eyes, through the rounded protrusion of one eye, through the rounded protrusion of the other eye, through a second wire hoop and back down to the chin. The rounded projections are also set onto small metal brackets at the top and bottom that work like axles to allow the eyes to swivel. There are pencil marks on the outer surface of the mask to create a pattern around the eyes. The ground colour of the face is light pink with the mouth painted in red and the eyebrows and hair painted brown. The hair is carved as though parted in the centre and extends down to the ears. There is a broad red design painted across the eyes, from the bridge of the nose to the middle of the forehead. The red extends down, just over the apple of each cheek. There are unpainted elements within the red that extend out from the bottom of each eye. The chin is noticeably rounded, and there are plainly carved ears on the mask. [CAK 08/04/2010]

Publications History

Reproduced in black and white as figure 11 on page 7 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: 'Mask of a deceased man; attributed to Stilthda.' [JC 16 4 1999]

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 53 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. Displayed with 1891.49.4, 1891.49.5, and 1891.49.6, with the following text: 'CANADA, BRITISH COLUMBIA, HAIDA GWAII; HAIDA. Four portrait masks made by Haida artist Simeon Stilthda (circa 1799–1889) of Massett and Yan, Haida Gwaii. All have moveable eyes or eyelids. Collected by the Reverend Charles Harrison in the 1880s. From left to right: a young man; a dead young noble woman (with labret); a dead youth; a young man, the face painted with a hawk's tail. Haida artist Vernon Williams commented (in 2005), ‘There's one mask I want to finish with this type of eyes…I know how to do them—but I want to see how he did his. He always did cool hair.' Purchased from Harrison in 1891; 1891.49.6, 1891.49.4, 1891.49.3, 1891.49.5.' [MdeA 3/9/2007; JC 21 1 2009]

Primary Documentation

Accession book entry (for 1891.49.3 and .4): 'From Rev. Ch. Harrison, 80 Halton Rd, Canonbury Sq. N. Collection of Haida objects collected by him.... - [one of] 2 Masks = deceased man & woman. £45. [Purchase price includes 1891.49.1-110]

Written on object (in red ink) - 'Mask Representing Deceased man. Haida C. Harrison Colln. (Ms. no.3) Purchased 1891.' [HR 9/11/2005]

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

Related Documents File - Discussion of the masks carved by Simeon Stilthda can be viewed on Tape 2, 15:10, and Tape 4, time 26:10 and 29:28. The tapes are in The Haida Project Related Documents File which 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]

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 with three other masks by the same carver, alongside other masks in the collection, on Thursday Sept 10, 2009. Delegates supported the identification of the carver as Simeon Stilthda. Jaalen Edenshaw commented that Stilthda is known for creating masks with moving eyes and was an expert at the techniques required for this. Stilthda is generally thought to be from the Ts'iit Gitanee clan from the village of Yan, although there is a possibility that he is from the other clan who lived in Yan. Diane Brown provided the name of another artist from Yan, Gwaytihl. [Cara Krmpotich note: Among art historians, there has been considerable work undertaken to distinguish the two artists, with many works originally attributed to Gwaytihl later revised as the hand of Stilthda.] With regards to the face painting on the masks, Vince Collison suggested people compare the designs with those illustrated by Franz Boas, and with those appearing in a photograph taken in Skidegate of villagers with masks, regalia and faces painted before they were encouraged to give up those practices. A copy of the photo appears in the catalogue for Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art [Cara Krmpotich note: the image appears on page 60. It is cited as being from the United Church of Canada Archives, and taken circa 1890.] Delegates wondered whether any of the masks were used as there are no mouthpieces or teeth marks—signs that a dancer had bitten down to hold on to the mask while dancing.
This mask was identified as a male. Diane Brown provided the Skidegate Haida word for mask, niijang, which also means a likeness of something. The same word, for example, is used to describe a picture.
Discussions of the four masks by Simeon Stilthda can be viewed on Tape 2, time 15:10, and Tape 4, time 26:10 and 29:28, which can be found in the Haida Project Related Documents File. [CAK 08/04/2010]

This mask may have been made by the Masset artist Charles Gwaytihl, whose work it resembles (see The Legacy: Continuing Traditions of Canadian Northwest Coast Indian Art, by Peter L. Macnair, Alan L. Hoover and Kevin Neary (Edinburgh: Edinburgh International Festival, 1980), pp. 70, 182 and fig. 48). [LMM, undated; JC 4 9 1996]

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 is an example of the type of 'young women masks with small labrets'; see p. 57, no. 4. [CW 11 6 98; JC 16 4 1999] NB this contradicts catalogue entry for this item which says it is of a deceased young man; face does not have a labret either. [Laura Peers 30/8/2005].

As of December 2005, email correspondence with Bill Holm and conversations with Bill McLennan (MOA, UBC), and several Haida carvers during consultations with Haida Nation, attribution of carver was uniformly to Simeon Stilthda. [Laura Peers, 07/04/2006]

Item History

With an account, you can ask other users a question about this item. Request an Account

With an account, you can submit information about this item and have it visible to all users and institutions on the RRN. Request an Account

Similar Items