Lot 3019. A carved wood Inupiaq mask, Ancient Eskimo, Alaska, 15th century; 16.3 cm, 6 3/8 in. Estimate 350,000 — 550,000 HKD. Lot sold 375,000 HKD. © Sotheby's 2018
finely carved with a subtle curvature echoing the brow ridge and cheek bones, framing two almond-shaped apertures for the eyes, the mask centred with a slightly raised elongated triangular section pierced with two apertures, traces of pigments along the edges, metal stand.
Provenance: Joseph G. Gerena, New York.
A Parisian private collection.
Literature: Joseph G. Gerena Fine Art, Masks: Transformation, Transmission & Trickery, New York, 2007.
Note: The Arctic region was described as the "Top of the World" by Edmund Carpenter in 1973 in the seminal The Far Northexhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The current fragment of a several centuries-old Inupiaq shamanic mask, with its features naturalistically rendered, not only evokes a strong magnetic presence but is also an exceptional demonstration of the aesthetic qualities of the archaic art of the extreme Far North.
It is extremely rare for masks to have pierced apertures along the nose and this example is possibly unique in the limited corpus of ancient Inupiaq masks. They suggest the possibility of an additional attachment to the surface of the mask - possibly a representation of a totemic animal or a shamanic reference - all the more reinforcing the aura of mystery surrounding this ancestral mask.
Sotheby's. Curiosity IV. Hong Kong, 02 Apr 2018, 10:30 AM