Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Dance Mask

early 20th century
United States, Alaska
Wood, paint, feathers
H. 24 x W. 23 3/4 x D. 6 1/2 in. (61 x 60.3 x 16.5 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
During the long, harsh winters in the Arctic, local people traditionally gathered indoors for celebrations of performance cycles. These featured feasts and masked dances in order to maintain harmony between the human, animal, and supernatural realms for the coming year. The masks worn by costumed dancers were often danced in pairs and represented a variety of animals, supernatural beings, and animal helpers. Humorous examples were also known, including caricatures of local personalities meant to entertain the spectators.
Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York, from 1927; Wolfgang von Paalen, acquired by 1939; Claude Levi Strauss, New York, acquired by ca. 1945 (?); [Ralph C. Altman, Los Angeles, acquired by 1952]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1952, on loan to the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 636.

Fienup-Riordan, Anne, ed. Agayuliyararput:: kegginaqut, kangiit-llu = Our way of making prayer: Yup'ik masks and the stories they tell. Seattle: Anchorage Museum of History and Art, 1996, Introduction.

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