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The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Art : The Art of the Spirit World : Actic
Anthropomorphic Face
Wood, 8 ½” Height, c.1880 -1900

Inuit Anthropomorphic Face
Inuit Anthropomorphic Face

This full-face mask shows no evidence of decoration or pigment, but it is likely to have been fully painted and ornamented when first designed.

Drill-holes trace across the eyebrows and upper lip, where human hair might have been inserted, a technique common to masks and dolls alike. Its eyeholes and mouth opening indicate they were functionally utilized, and the carved expression is naturalistic and undramatic.

While its use is unknown, it is possible that this mask would have been a shaman’s communication mask, rather than a dance mask, which are more specific in their design and purpose. Shaman’s masks often were used to perform incantations during healing practices, thus the mouth opening is large and in the correct position.

This mask was probably modeled on the face of the particular user, and perhaps was even carved by the shaman himself in his own likeness.