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The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Art : The Art of the Spirit World : Actic
Old Bering Sea
Puppet Head
Wood, Ivory, Bone & Pigment, 5 ⅝” Height, c.1600's
Old Bering Sea Puppet Head
Old Bering Sea Puppet Head

Carved of wood with inset ivory and bone features, this puppet head is one of the best examples of its type and is an unforgettable folk sculpture.

This head exhibits a deeply incised channel carved around its vertical circumference, where the clothing would have been fitted to keep it held in place. This carving is incorporated into the overall design of the face, neatly outlining the face, carved naturalistically and adorned with ivory inserts of eyes and a delicately-toothed mouth.

As often seen in native dolls, the mouth is depicted as open, which commonly represents the necessary symbolic feeding offered to protective spirits. One might also see this in reverse, where the mouth is open as if speaking to the audience.