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Frontlet

Artist Culture
Nuxalk (Bella Coola)
Date
c.1870
Material
Wood, pigment, copper, abalone shell, and mirrored glass
Made in
Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada, North and Central America
Classification
Sculpture, wood
Current Location
On View, Gallery 326
Dimensions
8 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 8 in. (21.6 x 16.5 x 20.3 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Morton D. May
Rights
Public Domain
Object Number
272:1982
NOTES
Worn on a dancer’s forehead, this carving featured additional components that moved. Sea lion whiskers extended from the crown and waved with the dancer’s motion. Additionally, a veil-like panel of swan skin or canvas streamed from back. This panel covered the dancer’s head and shoulders, as well as a mechanical apparatus that distributed eagle down. The carving represents a raven. With outstretched wings, the raven grasps a ball—which represents light—in its mouth. This frontlet illustrates the key moment in a Native Northwest Coast story when the trickster bird steals the sun, moon, and stars to illuminate the world. When a dancer wore the frontlet, abalone-shell inlays and mirrored eyes reflected firelight. This effect lent the carving a sense of animism and demonstrated the narrative of raven bringing light.
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