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Pair of silver bracelets displaying an avian crest by Charles Edenshaw - Donald Ellis Gallery

Pair of Bracelets

attributed to Tahayghen (Charles Edenshaw), 1839-1920
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

ca. 1890-1910


width: 1 ¾"

Inventory # CN4317

Please contact the gallery for more information.


Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Cat. No. A8093 – For a bracelet identified as portraying a cormorant – See: Augaitis, Daina (et al). Charles Edenshaw. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2014, pg. 130, fig. 142.

For a general discussion of Charles Edenshaw’s bracelets see: Ibid, “Placing Style: A Look at Charles Edenshaw’s Bracelets Through Time”, Bill McLennan and Karen Duffek, pgs 127-139.

Canadian Museum of Civilization, Cat. Nos. VII-B-10a and VII-B-10b - See: Ibid, Pg 130, pl. 141.

In the late 19th century Euro-Canadian missionaries repressed First Nations tattooing practices in an attempt to assimilate Indigenous peoples. Consequently many objects of personal adornment took on new historical significance. Beyond status and wealth,  jewellery became an important medium for the public display of clan affiliation. Charles Edenshaw, also known by his Haida name Tahayghen, is the most renowned among a generation of Northwest Coast artists masterfully working newly available materials such as silver and gold. Producing work for both Haida and Euro-Canadian clientele, Edenshaw adapted traditional designs to produce a body of work that references family crests and Haida cosmology. As Bill McLennan and Karen Duffek so aptly state in Placing Style: a Look at Charles Edenshaw’s Bracelets Through Time: 'Charles Edenshaw created his wide-ranging, evolving and influential body of work during a period of profound cultural change in the Pacific Northwest Coast. Reaching artistic maturity in the mid to late 1800s, he developed a practice that was both rooted in a deep understanding of Haida art and cosmology, and part of an emerging modernity. His metalwork, in particular embodies that confluence of the high point of the “classical” Haida style of the nineteenth century and the social and economic conditions of the period of colonization within which he lived.’

Although occasionally commissioned to produce works of the same design, no two of Edenshaw’s extraordinary engravings are alike. The precise identity of the animal and/or human image being represented is difficult to ascertain in most Northwest Coast design, as it can combine a family crest with a particular myth or historical event. Transformation between animal and human forms can further complicate identification. Haida imagery is a complex web of references that encompasses lineage histories and clan privileges, and their full significance is only known to the artist and patron, as well as communities and individuals with whom these codes were shared.

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