Carved in full relief, displaying a toothy open mouth, wide eyes and flowing sections of ribs, backbone, and appendages, the pierced grip grooved to fit a right-handed person. length 19 1/4in
Provenance: Purchased from Flury and Co./Jackson Street Gallery, Seattle, WA, 24 November 1997; appeared in the exhibit Northwest Coast Indian Art Tradition: Collected Heritage, Grace Hudson Museum, Ukiah, CA, 6 September 23 November 2003
Seal or fish club. Most likely 19th century Tlingit. This is a nice club, representing a sea lion, with ears and short tail that distinguish it from a seal. Sea lion is a usual representation on these clubs. The backbone and ribs are represented. Possibly of yew wood. The finger grooves on the grip are unusual. - from a personal communication with Bill Holm
The paucity of marks and dents in it suggest it may have been used primarily or entirely for ceremonial purposes. The exposed spine and ribs suggest it might have had shamanic significance. The handle is carved in such a way as to make the club easy to hold and use. - collectors' notes
Tlingit, c. 1880 Length 19 3/8in
Carved fish clubs are an example of how Northwest Coast carvers made art out of everyday objects. In addition to the visual elaboration of such a tool, there was a spiritual side to the embellishments as well. This fine club, which is related to several examples with a similar subject matter, represents a sea lion, one of the more common and active sea predators found on the Northwest Coast. The use of a predator image on such a club was believed to bring the strength and power of the sea lion to the fisherman's endeavors, calling out to the sea lion's spirit to assist in the work of capturing fish for sustenance. The sea lion image is recognized by the mammalian head with nostrils, large teeth, and ears (seals don't have visible ears), the placement and form of the pectoral fins, and the position and form of the rear flippers on either side of a short, stout tail, a feature often seen in images of sea lions and seals as well, such as the grease bowls of seal form. The pectoral and hind flippers exhibit finger-like forms that stream back from an ovoid representation of a body joint. Sea lions actually have fingernails that protrude from the bone structure beneath the leathery skin that covers their flippers. The hefty end of the club, toward the head, is the business end, used to dispatch large salmon and halibut before bringing them into the canoe for the journey home. The handle of this club is well fitted to the user's grip, as long as they are right-handed. The angles of the finger grooves and the notch for the thumb are such that the club would not fit the hand of a southpaw as smoothly. This formed grip area was created to provide a better hold on the club in the wet and sometimes slimy environment of a fishing canoe, and is an unusual feature that was surely appreciated by its owner. The sea lion design includes a long straight raised line flowing from the back of the head to the tail, which represents the animal's spinal column. Below this, between the front and rear flippers, are hollowed S-shaped forms. The raised ridges between these hollowed areas represent the ribs of the creature. Above the spine are four U-shapes that can be seen as the sea lion's vertebrae. Along the bottom edge of the club is a row of flat-edged lobes, packed densely together. This makes up the striking edge of the club, though most of its impacts would have been on the end closer to the head. The hard, dense wood of which the club was carved, probably either spruce or yew, makes for a strong and hefty weapon well suited to its tasks. The style of the design work on this club, with its rounded forms and fairly large hollowed areas, indicates a most-likely Tlingit origin in the decade before or after about 1880.
This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.
ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.
If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.
Buyers' Premium and Charges
For all Sales categories excluding Arms & Armor, Coins & Medals, Motor Cars, Motorcycles, and Wine & Whisky:
Buyer's Premium Rates 25% on the first $100,000 of the Hammer Price 20% from $100,001 to $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price 12% on the excess over $2,000,000 of the Hammer Price
Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank, (d) wire transfer or other immediate bank transfer, or (e) Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit, charge or debit card. A processing fee will be assessed on any returned checks. Please note that the amount of cash notes and cash equivalents that can be accepted from a given purchaser may be limited.
For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.