Pacific Northwest Coast, Bella Coola, ca. 1960s. Finely carved from alder wood, magnificently hand-painted, and adorned with plugs of human hair, a superb Bella Coola portrait mask presenting an expressive visage with wide open eyes, a prominent nose with flared nostrils, a slightly open mouth with downturned corners, and magnificent face paint in royal blue, cherry red, tan, black, and white hues. Masks like this example were traditionally used to represent ancestral spirits, animals, as well as creatures of the four regions of the cosmos - the Mortal World, the Sky World, the Undersea World, and the Spirit World - in theatrical rituals/dances. Size: 11" L x 7.25" W (27.9 cm x 18.4 cm); 22.5" H (57.2 cm) on included custom stand.
Traditionally, such masks were hidden away and guarded, and only shown during ceremonial dances. According to Bruce Grenville, curator of the Vancouver (British Columbia) Art Museum, in his introduction to Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast, "Masks are a manifestation of powerful ancestral spirits and are used to make the supernatural world visible."
Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection
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