Forehead Mask/Headpiece Tsimshian c. 1800-1840 Hardwood, paint, abalone shell, copper 5 ¼” High In a culture in which wealth and cultural status were important family values, the display of one’s clan and lineage origins on ceremonial occasions was a high priority, as was also the sense of pride and place in history that went with it. Clan and family leaders wore sculptured headpieces that represented the crest symbols of their lineage. Crests are the embodiment of one’s clan and family history in a symbol of the creatures and ancestors who created that history. Headpieces might depict a single crest symbol, as does the subject work, or they might be more elaborate compositions with several crest emblem creatures or ancestors incorporated into main and subsidiary images. Clan crest headgear took many forms, including forehead masks of crest images, flared-rim hats of wood with incorporated crest imagery, or elaborate hats carved in the form of creature’s bodies as if they were wrapped about the wearer’s head, sometimes with subsidiary figures attached. This headpiece is in the form of a forehead mask, which would be worn so that the carved image reposed on the forehead down to just above brow level. Leather ties extend around from each side of the mask that would secure it on the wearer’s forehead. This compact sculpture appears to depict a bear, of which the Grizzly and Brown Bear (two names for essentially the same animal) were the crest of numerous First Nations lineages in differing language families. Though no ears are present in the carving of this headgear, the image nonetheless includes several other indications of a bear representation. The low rounded nostrils and protruding tongue are common bear characteristics, and the placement of the copper and abalone-shell inlays suggests the order of a bear’s teeth. In addition, a piece of bear hide with the hair on it is part of the forehead mask’s means of attachment to the wearer. The attribution of Tsimshian manufacture in this work is based on the style of the sculpture. The narrow, wide eyebrows and lips, small eye, and defined cheekbone structure all indicate a Tsimshian artist in the making of this early and sculpturally refined carving. The tasteful use of abalone-shell inlay in the eyes, teeth, and nostrils indicates the high cultural status that this sculpture one enjoyed. The subtle ridges and hollows exhibit a great deal of masterful refinement, setting the work in this mask well above the average measure of craftsmanship, which is all the more remarkable considering the less sophisticated tools that would have been used in this early period of historical time on the Northwest Coast.