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CARVED RAVEN HEAD TOTEM – EXECUTED IN THE STYLE OF THE NORTHWEST COAST OR ALASKAN TRIBAL GROUPS – LARGE IMPRESSIVE PIECE:  This is a striking hand carved sculpture of a Raven Head, executed in the style of the Northwest or Alaskan Coastal Native Peoples.  

Measuring 40” long, 12” high, and 6” thick, this piece was hand carved from a single piece of native cedar or fir wood.   While there is no way for me to determine when this piece was carved, the figure exhibits some evidence of age, and it appears to have been subjected at some time in the past to a short period of exposure to the elements, but not so long as to cause excessive deterioration, splitting or weathering.  Overall the wood is solid with no apparent rot.   

There is evidence along the bottom surface which include two shallow mortises and at least one bolt hole which indicates this piece was mounted on a larger structure.  These carved pieces have been referred to as “door post totems” which as I understand it, were affixed to the entries of the native coastal plank houses to identify the family affiliation of the inhabitants.   

The paint is overall intact, but does not appear to have been repainted or enhanced. 

For what its worth, another indicator of age is the light weight character of the wood.  If this were made from modern cut timber or lumber, given the dimensions, I would expect it to be considerably heavier than it is.  In spite of its size, I can easily pick it up and carry it through the house with one hand.  The wood has obviously desiccated with age just as you would expect old wood to be.   

At the butt end of the carving, a piece of plywood, cut to the cross-section profile of the carving, was nailed to the raw end.  The projections at the bottom of the plywood act as outriggers to stabilize the carving so that it would stand upright when displayed in a modern collection.  Obviously, the plywood is not original to the carved head, but rather it is a later addition to support the piece while on display.  From the looks of it, the plywood was added long ago, and while crudely done, it performs the function of keeping the carving from tipping over.  A much more stylish means of supporting the head could be easily fashioned without much of an investment of time or imagination, and the plywood shouldn’t be a problem to remove.  I’ve left it in place because it does provide support and protection for the carving while in transit, so I’ll leave removing the plywood for the eventual owner.     

This is a very attractive and dramatic piece which will be one of the centerpieces of a collection of Native Art.  (0533)  $550


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