Object photography

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Object description

  • Possibly Heiltsuk or Coast Tsimshian artist artist
  • Ancestor mask, 1840-1860
  • Wood, paint, plant fiber
  • British Columbia, Central Northwest Coast, Canada
  • H: 9 in, W: 6 3/4 in, D: 4 1/4 in (H: 22.9 cm, W: 17.1 cm, D: 10.8 cm)
  • Gift of Mr. Edward S. Moseley, 1979
  • E28573
  • Worn in dance and ceremony
  • Honors an important ancestral being in the family lineage

Although frequently referred to as portrait masks, this mask style depicts ancestral beings rather than actual human ancestors. In a Heiltsuk dance series called Dhuwlaxa ("returned from heaven"), mythic ancestors ascend to the heavens and then return to earth, emanating a radiant aura.


This is a mask of a human face.The mask is ornamented with red and blue designs as well as red lips and ears. The eye brows and facial hair are painted black, and the mask has white teeth. There is a plant fiber loop inside the mask, just above the mouth. There are small holes throughout the entire mask most likely caused by insect damage.

Exhibition History

  • Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century & Contemporary Native American Artists, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; November 14, 1996 through May 18, 1997