Dancing Mask For Chiefs

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FROM CARD: "LOAN: CROSSROADS SEP 22 1988. ILLUS.: CROSSROADS OF CONTINENTS CATALOGUE; FIG. 183, P.153. LOAN RETURNED: JAN 21 1993." FROM 19TH OR EARLY 20TH CENTURY EXHIBIT LABEL WITH CARD: "HEAD-DRESS.---HEAD OF WOOD, HOLLOWED OUT UNDERNEATH TO FIT HEAD OF WEARER, AND CARVED AND PAINTED ON EXTERIOR TO REPRESENT HEAD OF FISH, THE EYES, MOUTH, AND SPINES BEING OF COPPER. THE GILLS, FINS, BACKBONE, AND TAIL ARE OF WOOD, CARVED, AND PAINTED. THE BODY IS OF CANVAS, STUFFED WITH DRIED GRASS. WORN IN CEREMONIAL DANCES BY A CHIEF OF INDIANS OF BELLA BELLA. LENGTH OF HEAD, 11 INS. BODY, 20 INS. TAIL, 15 INS. TOTAL, 46 INS. BRITISH COLUMBIA, 1876. 20,573. COLLECTED BY J. G. SWAN." Crossroads of Continents catalogue identifies as a Sculpin headdress or "back mask", which would have been worn by a crouching dancer. "This spectacular mask has the dorsal ridge, fins, and spines of the sculpin joined to a body of muslin stuffed with grass. The sculpin's characteristic features are overlaid with copper, a metal of high value and prestige. Eyes are of iron, and an inlay (probably copper) once shone in the nostrils. Painting in black, trade vermillion, and blue (probably derived from the iron silicate mineral, celadonite) elaborates the carving." IDENTIFIED AS BELLA BELLA MASK REPRESENTING SCULPIN, C. 1860, ON P. 189 IN DOWN FROM THE SHIMMERING SKY BY PETER MACNAIR, VANCOUVER ART GALLERY, 1998.
Record Last Modified
22 Oct 2019
Specimen Count
Accession Date
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Accession Number
USNM Number
Bella Bella (Heiltsuk)
James G. Swan
Donor Name
James G. Swan
British Columbia, Canada, North America
Length - Head
28 cm
Length - Body
51 cm
Length - Tail
38 cm
Length - Total
117 cm
NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
Object Type