Object photography

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Object description

  • Tlingit artist
  • Hat, early 19th century
  • Spruce root, pigment
  • Sitka, Alaska, Northwest Coast, United States
  • H: 18 1/2 in, dia.: 24 1/4 in (H: 47.0 cm, dia.: 61.6 cm)
  • Gift of Captain John Bradshaw, 1832
  • E3647

SPECIAL COLLECTION

East India Marine Society Collection

DESCRIPTION

This hat is woven of spruce root with a painted design. The flaring brim is twined with a skip-stitch, creating a zigzag field. At the point of transition to the crown, the weave changes to fine three-strand twining, offering a dramatic visual contrast. A stack of six basketry cylinders (rings, or "potlatch rings") provides added loft to the hat. The rim is strengthened by two braided courses, and highlighted by a line of red paint. The undulating black formline of Northwest Coast stylistic convention delineates Raven's beak, body, and wings. This initially recognizable image begins to transform: the bird's upper beak suggests the head of a land mammal while a smaller red formline image below the lower jaw seems to be the head of a different creature. Further Remarks: Crests -- dynamic representations of ancestral animals, heavenly bodies, heroes, and supernatural beings -- are the most treasured possesssion of Tlingit people. They serve a social and religious function by confirming a person's inalienable connection to his or her clan or lineage through the visual embodiment of the spirit depicted. Regal woven hats such as this example are among the most significant and treasured objects of crest display, and would have been worn by a man of high status only at great events of state. Named shar-dar khuke for the way it moves like wild celery when worn in dance, the hat increased in value with each public presentation, which in turn was reflected in the number of woven rings stacked on the hat's crown. The brim and crown of this masterfully rendered hat are finely woven in contrasting styles, enhancing the movement and dramatic content of the painted Raven crest. The undulating black formline of Northwest Coast stylistic convention delineates Raven's beak, body, and wings. Through the artist's visual sleight-of-hand, this initially recognizable image begins to transform: the bird's upper beak suggests the head of a land mammal while a smaller red formline image below the lower jaw seems to be the head of a different creature. These new forms express Raven's mutable character and the animated quality of the crest itself. In the many lesson-driven cultural stories in which he is featured, Raven's ambivalent nature as provider, manipulator, and trickster is inextricably linked to Tlingit mores. He is the re-arranger-responsible for transforming the world to its present state-who used his cunning to steal the sun and fresh water and bring them to earth. This magnificent hat embodies the important stories and histories rooted in the Raven clan. The crest, regarded by the Tlingit as a living entity, imbues the hat with the ancestral presence of Raven, linking together clan members of the past, the present, and future.

Exhibition History

  • Uncommon Legacies: Native American Art from the Peabody Essex Museum, Washington State Historical Society; October 11, 2005 through February 09, 2006
  • Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century & Contemporary Native American Artists, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; November 14, 1996 through May 18, 1997