View full screen - View 1 of Lot 80. Chief's Mask of Dzunukwa By Kwakwaka’wakw Chief Willie Seaweed (circa 1873 - 1967), circa 1940.
80

Chief's Mask of Dzunukwa By Kwakwaka’wakw Chief Willie Seaweed (circa 1873 - 1967), circa 1940

Estimate:

150,000 - 250,000 USD

Property from a Private Collection

Chief's Mask of Dzunukwa By Kwakwaka’wakw Chief Willie Seaweed (circa 1873 - 1967), circa 1940

Chief's Mask of Dzunukwa By Kwakwaka’wakw Chief Willie Seaweed (circa 1873 - 1967), circa 1940

Estimate:

150,000 - 250,000 USD

Lot sold:

201,600

USD

Property from a Private Collection

Chief's Mask of Dzunukwa By Kwakwaka’wakw Chief Willie Seaweed (circa 1873 - 1967)

circa 1940


Height: 11 1/2 in (29.2 cm)

Excellent condition overall. A vertical hairline age crack which runs from the top center of the mask down by the proper right eye; more noticeable on the reverse of the mask but also visible to the forehead. Crack at the top of the head has black paint inside it. Hairline crack to the reverse of the mask at the center of the nose and another to the center-rear of the mask at the jawline. Small chips, nicks, scuffs, and dents scattered in places, with some wear to the black and red paint. Some areas of black paint to the reverse of the mask around the rim. Four small holes to the reverse of the mask from former attachment. The reverse of the mask with a fine oxidized patina indicating use. Mounted on a modern stand.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.

Chief Willie Seaweed (circa 1873 - 1967), Blunden Harbour, British Columbia
Sidney and Anne Gerber, Seattle, acquired directly from the above at Blunden Harbour in 1953
Private Collection, acquired as a gift from the above before 1983
Bill Holm, The Box of Daylight: Northwest Coast Indian Art, Seattle, 1983
Steven C. Brown, Native Visions: Evolution in Northwest Coast Art from the Eighteenth Through the Twentieth Century, Seattle, 1998
Seattle Art Museum, long term loan (including the exhibitions listed below), 1983 - October 20, 2018
Seattle Art Museum, The Box of Daylight: Northwest Coast Indian Art, September 15, 1983 - January 8, 1984
Seattle Art Museum, Native Visions: Evolution in Northwest Coast Art from the Eighteenth through the Twentieth Century, February 19 - May 10, 1998; additional venues: New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, June 15  -September 13, 1998; Anchorage Museum of History and Art, October 18, 1998 - January 10, 1999; Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, June 12 - September 6, 1999

The present mask is an important artistic bridge from our time to the ancient traditions of the First Nations people of the Northwest Coast of North America. The artist and Chief Willie Seaweed (circa 1873-1967) was perhaps the most important figure in the revival and preservation of the early carving traditions into the modern world of the 20th century. This effort was successful in the face of great adversity, as the artistic sophistication and spiritual strength of this mask depicting Dzunukwa proves abundantly.


The chain of ownership of the present mask is firmly established back to the artist, who was also known as Chief Hilamas, Smoky Top, Kwaxitola, and The One Able To Set Things Right. As a boy, the present owner was present when Sidney and Anne Gerber acquired the mask directly from Willie Seaweed at his home in Blunden Harbor, present day British Columbia. The Gerbers later bequeathed it to him, and it was on loan to the Seattle Art Museum for 35 years, from 1983 - 2018.


Steven C. Brown notes: "Willie Seaweed (c. 1873-1967) was an outstanding and prolific traditional artist of the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation. His surname is an English spelling of the chief’s name, Sewidi, which means 'paddling owner', or metaphorically 'to whom everyone paddles', which indicates the status of the chief as an important person to whom other people travel. He made dozens of masks and other items of ceremonial regalia from his home in Blunden Harbour, a remote village on the British Columbia mainland opposite the north end of Vancouver Island. His son, Joe, was also a talented artist who often worked in tandem with his father. The heads of family lineages would commission an artist to produce an original set of masks when their eldest son was to be initiated into the Hamatsa society. Willie Seaweed, also known by one of his traditional names that translates as 'Smoky-Top', would carve and paint a set of the man-eating bird monsters according to the ceremonial privileges of the commissioning family. In his later years, Seaweed lived in the cultural hub of Alert Bay, where he was an invaluable member of the older generation who inspired the revitalization of Kwakwaka'wakw culture that began during his time."


"Willie Seaweed's carving style was founded on the traditional work of his predecessors in Blunden Harbour, who as a group were recognized for their original and sometimes flamboyant interpretations of traditional imagery. Seaweed developed his own unique style over many decades, beginning in the late nineteenth century and evolving well into the 1950s. His highly refined style can readily be picked out from among the work of his peers, and has been one of the primary inspirations for contemporary Kwakwaka'wakw artists who emulate and further expand upon his body of work." (Steven C. Brown, personal communication).


This mask depicts the important female character of Dzunuḵ̓wa (variously spelled as Tsonoqua, Tsonokwa), a tutelary ancestor who is both celebrated as a bringer of wealth and feared, particularly by misbehaved children, as an abductor and cannibal of the same. She is said to exclaim “Hu!” through bright red pursed lips, and children are warned that the sound of wind in the cedars is her ominous voice.