1884.68.51

Wooden helmet with relief carving of octopus, painted in black, blue, red and white. [CAK 11/03/2010]

Place details: N AMERICA. Canada. British Columbia ?Vancouver Island ?Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) NW Coast. Cultural Group: NW Coast Haida Local Name: naaw; nuu Materials: Wood Plant / Pigment / Iron Metal / ?. Processes: Carved / Painted / Nailed / ?. Dimensions: H = 180 mm Diam = 280 mm When Collected: ?Prior to 1878 Acquired: Donated 1884 PR No.: 11/ 8373 ?11/ 8393 8/ 8373

KEYWORD: Helmet / Animal Figure / Dance Accessory / CLASS: Figure / Clothing Headgear / Ceremonial / ?.

Object description: Wooden helmet with relief carving of octopus, painted in red, black, blue, and white. The helmet is carved from a single piece of wood, likely alder or maple. It has a dome-shape and is painted red. The head of the octopus is carved on the top of the helmet. The face has mammalian features including a mouth with two rows of teeth, including sharp canines, and ears. The teeth had been painted in white, though little pigment remains on them. The mouth is outlined in red as are two round nostrils. There is a black stripe the runs from the eyebrows down the centre of the face and into the mouth. The face is painted blue, with triangular unpainted segments on each cheek. The eyes are painted white with large black irises. There are thick, angled eyebrows painted black. The top of the head is unpainted, but there are thin black lines outlining certain features. There is a red stripe that goes across the top of the head. Two thin black ears(?) are carved behind the red stripe. On the back of the head is a design featuring two black ovoids surrounded by blue and set within a red form that may be a face or a fin. There are six tentacles that extend from the head down the sides of the helmet. The tentacles are primarily black with blue segments outlined in red at the top, followed by upside down blue faces with black eyes and red mouths, and then abstract accents of blue and red. The ends of the tentacles curl and a human face is carved at the centre of each. The faces are outlined with red paint. [CAK 11/03/2010]

Publications history, trails & websites: Reproduced in colour on page 253 of the exhibition catalogue 'From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia' edited by Sarah Milroy and Ian Dejardin, published 2014 by Art Gallery Ontario and Dulwich Picture Gallery. With the caption 'Helmet with Octopus/Bear, Northwest Coast, 19th century. Wood and paint'. [FB 29/10/2014]

Illustrated in colour on page 33 of The Pitt Rivers Museum: A World Within, by Michael O’Hanlon (London: Scala, 2014). Caption (same page) reads: ‘21 Wooden helmet with relief carving of octopus. Haida people, British Columbia, Canada Probably exhibited at Bethnal Green Diameter 280 mm Donated by General Pitt-Rivers 1884.68.51’ [MJD (Verve) 18/2/2016]

Illustrated in colour on page 25 of ‘Gina Suuda Tl’l Xasii Came to tell something Art & Artist in Haida Society’ by Nika Collison (Haida Gwaii. Haida Gwaii Museum Press 2014). Caption: "Wooden helmet Haida, C. 1880s Octopus with six legs Wood, paint, 18 x 28 Photo: Malcolm Osman, courtesy of Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, 1884.68.51 This helmet's original function is unknown today, but would have served as a clan hat, or more likely, a war helmet." [SM (Verve) 1/12/2016]