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Sheep horn ladle with designs carved in low-relief from back of bowl up the back of the handle. At the base of the handle a small human face gazes outward.

History Of Use

The labour required to boil, shape, carve, and embellish the tough and twisted horn of a mountain sheep indicates something of the significance that a large ladle of this kind would have held to the people who made and used it. The artist was creating a scoop to serve oils or other foods at a feast, but chose this resilient material and refined the ladle’s form and imagery so that it would also speak to matters beyond its immediate function. Translucent in its finished form, the ladle embodies the transformation of the resources of the land – the spirit and life of the mountain sheep, the knowledge and prowess of the hunter to obtain it – into an expression of history, connection, and cultural wealth.


Purchased by the donor through a Christie's auction in 1996. According to their information, the piece was previously in the James & Marilyn Bergstrom Collection of Northwest Coast Art. The entire back of the ladle is carved in low relief - from the base of the handle a small human face gazes outward. In its journey through private collections and American auction houses a century after it was made, this ladle caught the attention of Haida artist Bill Reid who, in 1975, contemplated that face in a discussion about art and aesthetics with art historian Bill Holm. “I think it emphasizes the courage which all the good artists demonstrated,” Reid reflected; “For eyebrows he drew two parallel lines with a vertical line down the middle – and just left it at that. Looking at it now, that seems to be the only thing he could have done. He knew when to quit.”

Item History

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