Tsimshian or Tlingit, Native American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 746

Pacific Northwest clan leaders hold potlatch ceremonies to renew their social status through a costly feast and gift exchange. Traditionally, the host would accumulate food, clothing, and trade goods, such as marine shells and copper, and commission specialized artists to create dance masks to further display this wealth. This ritual maskette or frontlet is pierced around the edges to affix it to a headdress assemblage. The blindingly white teeth are made of highly valued opercula, a hard plug that allows the marine mollusk to close its shell. The mask’s pointy nose may reference the beak of a bird or the mouth of an octopus.

Maskette, Wood, copper, shell, and pigment, Tsimshian or Tlingit, Native American

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