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Shaman Figure

Simeon Stilthda, Haida, c.1800–1889
Artist Culture
c. 1880
Alder or cedar with pigment
Made in
British Columbia, Canada, North and Central America
Sculpture, wood
Current Location
On View, Gallery 326
22 x 9 x 7 1/2 in. (55.9 x 22.9 x 19.1 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
This carving is a masterpiece of Native American art. The figure’s remarkable naturalism, evident in the sunken cheeks and skeletal torso, is a dramatic departure from the abstraction that is more typical of Northwest Coast art. Shaman figures such as this were placed in front of shaman graves and served as a guardian for eternity. As a shaman receives supernatural power through fasting, these figures are often depicted as emaciated and near death. Their spiritual essence was partly contained in their uncut hair, wrapped in a bun. Simeon Stilthda reveals his virtuosity in form and detail as he portrays shamanistic qualities of emaciation, taut skin, and typical clothing, including aprons with vertical lines of fringe. Only four figures carved by Stilthda are known to exist today.
Private Collection, OR, USA

- 1976
Paul Kalicki, Madison, IL, by inheritance [1]

1976 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Paul Kalicki [2]

[1] Saint Louis Art Museum curator Lee A. Parsons describes the provenance. In a letter dated February 15, 1977, to Elizabeth Carmichael at the British Museum in London, Parsons notes that a local man's grandmother acquired the shaman figure in Oregon. The grandmother "brought it to Illinois 75 years ago," as Parson describes in a letter dated March 22, 1977, to Bill Holm at the Burke Museum in Seattle. [SLAM document files].

[2] Minutes of the Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, December 16, 1976.
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