Wolf mask

Northwest coast shamanic wolf mask, £14,000 at Hansons Ross.

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It came for sale, seemingly with little in the way of provenance, at Hansons Ross in Royston on January 12.

Shamanic masks or headdresses made by Native Americans from the Northwest coast are among the most striking of all tribal art. Often depicting the spirit animals, they were worn during the potlatch of other important ceremonial occasions. While most are attributed to the Haida people, they were also made by the Tlingit and the Tsimshian in British Columbia.

Wolf mask

A detail of the Northwest coast wolf mask sold for £14,000 at Hansons Ross. Its teeth and eyes are inlaid with abalone shell.

This example, measuring 15in (37cm) long, is made in wood, animal hide and human hair with abalone shell inlays flashing from the eyes and the teeth. Although it was catalogued as ‘a carved wood tribal ceremonial horse’s head mask’, it more likely evokes a wolf and would have been used in the walas'axa or wolf dance.

Probably once brightly painted when used in the 19th century, it is now in tired but unrestored condition.