Potlach figure

Native American (Kwakiutl)
about 1840

Object Place: Kwakwaka'waku, Northern Vancouver Island, Canada


172.08 x 46.99 cm (67 3/4 x 18 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Red cedar and paint (metal armature)

On View

Native North America Gallery (Gallery LG34)





Standing frontal figure carved from a single piece of wood. The head and face are circular and are framed by a halo shape. Eyes are circular and the mouth is like a down turned crescent moon. The nose area is well defined but missing the frontal shape. Bent arms are held symmetrically just below the waist. The figure is holding the lower portion of a copper plate, the top of which curves to repeat the arch of the chest; the lower portion of the copper is composed of two vertically aligned rectangles. Images are carved in low relief on the face and the copper plate, and traces of red paint remain on the llps and the face carving. Distinct chisel marks cover the lower portion of the body; feet missing.


About 1885, collected by D.F. Tozier (b. 1843 - d. 1926), Tacoma, WA; 1917, sold with the Tozier collection to George Gustav Heye (b. 1874– d. 1957) and became part of the Heye Foundation, Museum of the American Indian, New York (cat. no. 6/8722); 1960, deaccessioned by the Museum. By 1968, Allan Frumkin (dealer; b. 1926 - d. 2002), New York; January 27, 1968, Frumkin collection sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, lot 77, sold for $6500. Fred Rowl, New York. Francesco Pellizzi, New York. 1998, sold by Donald Ellis (dealer), Ontario, to the MFA. (Accession Date: March 3, 1998)

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by a friend of the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture