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Carved and painted wooden portrait mask of Dzilaqons with large labret - Donald Ellis Gallery
Portrait mask of Dzilaqons with large labret and characteristic face paint - Donald Ellis Gallery

Portrait Mask of Dzila'qons

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

ca. 1820-1830

wood, paint

height: 8 ¾"

Inventory # CN4328


acquired by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON


Skinner, Boston, January 29, 2005, lot 292
Collection Ron Nasser, New York, NY
Alain de Monbrison, Paris, France
Collection Claude Berri (1934-2009), Paris
, France
Private collection, France


Peabody Museum, Harvard, Cat. No. 10/51671 and Cat. No. 10/76816 - See: Macnair, Peter, Joseph, Robert and Grenville, Bruce. Down From the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast. Vancouver: Douglas & MacIntyre, 1998, pg. 68, pl. 41 and pg. 64, pl. 38 for a mask identified in the scholarship as the prototype "Jenna Cass" type mask (Macnair 1998). Inside the mask an inscription reads "A correct likeness of Jenna Cass, a high chief woman of the Northwest Coast"

And also: Holm, Bill. Soft Gold: The Fur Trade and Cultural Exchange on The Northwest Coast of America. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1982, pg. 96, pl. 60 for a discussion of this archetype “Jenna Cass” mask and its likely representation of the ancestress Djilakons of the Eagle Clan moiety.

Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Cat. No. E3483 - See: Ibid, pgs. 36-37, pl. 15 for a sister mask catalogued in 1831 as a "Wooden mask once used by a distinguished chieftainess of the Indians at Nootka Sound-said to represent exactly the manner in which she painted her face." (Macnair 1998)

Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian, Cat. No. 2666 - See: Ibid, pg. 69, pl. 43

This exquisitely carved portrait mask is associated with a style of mask known as the “Jenna Cass type”. This group of masks share many of the same features including “round, open eyes with a grooved upper lid; large eye socket; small, narrow nose flattened under the nostrils; rounded sometimes double chin; wide mouth with very large labret. The face painting is expertly designed of formlines in blue and red. Some of the masks in this group have large, elaborately carved ears painted red.” (Holm 1982, pg. 96). Three of the most notable examples by the same master carver are in the collections of the Peabody Museum, Harvard and the Peabody Museum Essex. Four dolls are also attributed to this carver, two in the Peabody,Harvard, one in the Peabody, Essex, and one formerly in the Woburn Public Library, Woburn, MA, and now in a private collection. The subject of all these carvings is believed to be the ancestress of the Haida people, Djilakons, and the name"Jenna Cass" to be a 19th century English rendering of the Haida name. In the words of the ethnologist John Swanton: 'Djilaqons is a conspicuous and ever recurring figure in [Haida] mythology...All the Eagles upon this island came in succession out of the womb of Djilaqons. In the process of descent they became differentiated [into various families].' (Swanton 1909)