Native American, Pacific Northwest Coast, Haida peoples, ca. first half of the 20th century CE. A fine example of an argillite totem, hand-carved to display a vertical profusion of animals stacked atop one another and flowing into each other through the use of similarly carved forms and motifs. This example is capped by a winged figure, perhaps a bat or a raven, and includes a human-faced frog, a large beaked head with an extended tongue, and an upside-down anthropomorphic figure with the beaked head's projecting tongue in its mouth. Each figure is carved as one with an integral platform and the totem stands easily on its own. Size: 4.375" W x 13.1" H (11.1 cm x 33.3 cm).
Argillite is a fine grained sedimentary rock that is essentially made of mud and ooze; it often has a smooth appearance like this example. In the 19th century, the Haida people began to carve this material as a trade good for visiting Europeans and Americans, because of the decline of their traditional economic practice of fishing. Items like this one served as a way to show their artistic merit and introduce some of their iconography to the outside world.
Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection
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