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Wooden mask of a male face with moveable eyes and a black line running over the eyebrows, around each cheek and under the nose, and with a thick red line along the lower jaw. [CAK 24/08/2009]

Publications History

Reproduced in black and white as figure 14 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 representing "Stick or Mainland Indians"; attributed to Stilthda.' [JC 16 4 1999]

Longer Description

Wooden mask of a male face with moveable eyes and a black line running over the eyebrows, around each cheek and under the nose, and with a thick red line along the lower jaw. The mask is carved from one piece of wood, which appears to be either alder or yellow cedar, with the addition of separate eyes made from the same wood. The eyes are held in place at the rear by ferrous metal 'L' shaped pins above and below each eye. The strings to manipulate each eye should run through 'u' shaped ferrous metal pins on the outer side of each eye, then down the mask to exit through two holes beneath the chin, but the strings are no longer fully connected and what remains of them has been tied at the back of the eyes. The tightness of this knot is causing the eyes to look left when viewed from the front. The visible parts of the eyes are painted white and black, while the face is painted flesh pink with asymmetrical black markings across both cheeks. The hair is painted black and the lips and jaw area are painted red. [HR 28/10/2005]

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 52 in the display). [DCF Court Team 2002-2004; JC 21 1 2009]

This object features 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 1891.49.3, 1891.49.4, and 1891.49.5, 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]

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.]
This mask was identified as representing a male. Gwaai Edenshaw wondered whether this mask was ever used as there are no teeth marks on the back—a sign that a dancer would have had bitten down to hold on to the mask while dancing.
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]

For a 'very similar mask with face painting' in the British Columbia Provincial Museum, Victoria (10655) see figure 48 on page 54 of Portrait Masks from the Northwest Coast of America, by J. C. H. King (London: Thames and Hudson, 1979). [unsigned, undated; edited by JC 21 1 2009]

This mask may have been made by the Masset artist Charles Gwaytihl, whose work it resembles (see very similar mask in The Legacy: Continuing Traditions of Canadian Northwest Coast Indian Art, by Peter L. Macnair, Alan L. Hoover and Kevin Neary (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Internatonal 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 men masks, some with beards and moustaches'; see p. 57, no. 4. [CW 11 6 98; JC 16 4 1999]

Consultation with Bill Holm (personal communication 2005) and members of the Haida Nation in December 2005 confirmed that the mask is now attributed to Simeon Stilthda. [Laura Peers, 10/04/2006]

The reference on the back of the mask to a "Stick or mainland Indian" on the back of the mask may be to the people living along the Stikine River in northern British Columbia (traditionally Tahltan territory). [CAK 24/08/2009]

Primary Documentation

Accession book entry (for 1891.49.5 and .6): 'From Rev. Ch. Harrison, 80 Halton Rd, Canonbury Sq. N. Collection of Haida objects collected by him.... - [1 of] 2 Masks = Stick or Mainland Indians.

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

Written on object - 'Mask representing stick or mainland Indian in one of native dances. Haida. C. Harrison Colln. (MS. No.3) purchased 1891.' [HR 28/10/2005]

Related Documents File – A 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 inThe 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]

Item History

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