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

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

It came for sale, seemingly with little in the way of provenance, at Hansons Ross (26% buyer’s premium) 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 or 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.


A detail of the teeth and eyes inlaid with abalone shell of the Northwest coast shamanic wolf mask that made £14,000 at Hansons Ross.

This example, measuring 15in (37cm) long, was 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, the mask was now in tired but unrestored condition.