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The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Art : The Art of the Spirit World : Woodlands

Eastern Woodlands
Carved Crucifix
Maple, 4” Height. Dated “1822” or “1829”

Northeast Woodlands (Wabanaki Group) Belt Cup
Eastern Woodlands Carved Crucifix

Missionaries from the 17th Century onwards were quick to try to convert the Indian “savages”. By the 19th Century, many of the Iroquois and Ojibwa leaders were themselves Christian preachers. To meet the new demand, trade silver crucifixes were imported for sale at trading posts and many European makers became well-known for their work. By comparison, native-made crucifixes and Christian artifacts are exceptionally rare.

This crucifix, made by an unknown Woodlands carver, is a particularly artful example, with the Christ figure’s portrait reduced to the essence of its figural meaning. This has been accomplished with subtle exaggeration of the figure’s arched back, recessed groin and radiating lines framing the head.