Profit Estimate: 80% - 160%


Hold Period: 1 Year


Measurements note- Length 13 in.

In the form of a bird in flight, a representation of the oyster catcher, constructed of two hollowed sections, joined with hide binding on the cylindrical grip, and with hide ties around the perforated perimeter at the midsection, masterfully carved with a shaman's figure reclining on the bird's back, with hands grasping the exaggerated tongue emerging from the mouth of a mountain goat, a pair of diminutive, reclining figures, each with one hand resting on its abdomen, the other grasping the creature's long backswept horns, their mouths open in an exhilarated expression, a series of tentacles along each side, the underside with anus hole, short legs cut away from the body and flattened webbed feet, wings indictaed by formline detailing finely incised along the flanks; the whole of the upper surface with numerous small perforations, red, green, and black mineral pigments, small hand-cut plaques of abalone shell inset to the eyes; fine aged patina overall.


Russian America Company Museum, Sitka

Possibly collected by I.G. Voznesenskii, 1839-1849, northern Southeast Alaska

Edward G. Fast Collection, Sitka 1867

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, 1868

Alan R. Sawyer, 1958

Adelaide DeMenil and Edmund Carpenter, New York City, 1976

Acquired from Sotheby's New York, December 1997, lot 442, illustrated


Galeries Nationales du Grande Palais, Paris, "La rime et la raison, Les Collections Menil (Houston - New York), April 17-July 30, 1984.


Furst and Furst, North American Indian Art, 1982, p. 124, pl. 114, illustrated: "Here again the iconography of the Tlingit shaman's rattle mirrors the magical arts. On the rattle lies a shaman pulling mightily on the tongue of the mountain goat. This is because the tongues of certain animals, especailly mountain goat and otter, are among the most important power objects a novice shaman can acquire on his initiary vision quest and on subsequent occasions. The goat's agility in leaping across perilous chasms is analogous to the shaman's leap from the human to nonhuman worlds, while its horns relate to his own metaphorical 'horns of power'."

Paris, Hopps and Mock eds., La rime et la raisonLes collections Menil, 1984, p. 341, no. 199, illustrated

Wardwell, Tangible Visions, 1997, p. 264, no. 402, illustrated


From a written assessement on this piece by Steve Brown: "Tlingit oystercatcher rattles were the exclusive and individual property of shamans, and were employed by them in rituals of curing and divination. The general form of the black oystercatcher, a striking shorebird of the outer coasts, is commonly followed in the shape of the body of the rattle, with subsidiary figures unique to the individual shaman represented on the back of the bird. Made of two hollowed wood pieces, the halves of such rattles are held together by small ties and the wrapping of the often short, stout handles. The oystercatcher's thin, reddish beak, graceful neck, and webbed feet are all included in the most traditional representations, and some, like this example, also feature two-dimensional design work about the breast and lower sides of the rattle. The rounded and fluid style of this rattle is readily comparable to the style of painting on a large spruce-root hat that is now in the Peabody-Essex Museum, accessioned prior to 1830 {E-3647}. A similar balance of positive and negative forms exists in both these finely crafted paintings. The arched neck of the oystercatcher is particularly delicate and graceful in this example, and the abalone-shell inlaid eye is not a common feature.

The figures on the backs of oystercatcher rattles can generally be said to represent symbolic interactions between the shaman and his guardian spirits, known as yeik, and other spirit beings. There is often the symbolism of the spirit-flight featured, usually on the back of a composite creature made with land-, sea-, and sometimes air-being characteristics. Shamanic yeik-symbols, such as land-otters and octopus tentacles, are also often present in these compositions...The arrangements of narrative figures on the backs of these rattles are very different from one another, evidently representing symbols from the personalized dreams and visions of their owners."

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