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An historic Kwakiutl totem pole image 1
An historic Kwakiutl totem pole image 2
Thumbnail of An historic Kwakiutl totem pole image 1
Thumbnail of An historic Kwakiutl totem pole image 2
Lot 184
An historic Kwakiutl totem pole
6 June 2016, 11:00 PDT
San Francisco

Sold for US$56,250 inc. premium

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An historic Kwakiutl totem pole

Depicting a thunderbird figure at top, with separately carved ears and wings attached, perched atop a seated bear holding a humanoid head to its chest, faint remains of the original paint, an inscription on the rear of the base reads "Alert Bay totem sold by The Nugget Shop - Juneau Alaska - 1920".
height 11ft 1in


The Nugget Shop, Juneau, AK; the Avery Brundage Collection; sold at auction in Los Angeles in the 1970's; a Santa Barbara area collection until the present day

As the pole was recorded to have been sold by The Nugget Shop in 1920, there is good reason to presume it dates to the last quarter of the 19th century. One of many photos of the pole shows it freshly repainted and in front of the shop where it had stood for a number of years. The pole achieved iconic status as a logo for the business, appearing on postcards, advertisements, and even as a profile view on small stickers distributed by the company. After years of being exposed to the outdoors, the later layer of shiny oil-based paints has worn away, leaving an aged natural patina with only small traces of the original paint.

Compares Favorably
Jonaitis, Aldona, 1988, p. 232, fig. 83 for a photo taken in 1909 of a pair of Kwakiutl poles from Alert Bay displaying the same theme of thunderbird, bear and humanoid.

Use of the period photograph of The Nugget Shop is by permission of the Alaska State Library, Winter and Pond Photo Collection, P87-0977.

Additional information