Raven rattle

Raven rattle
view: front

Rattles in the form of birds were used throughout the Northwest Coast. Some were collected during Cook's visit to the Nootka in 1778 (King, 1981: pls. 49-51), and an example similar to this one was collected among the Tlinglit in 1805 by Lisiansky (1814: pl. Ie; Siebert and Forman, 1967: 59, 60). The bird most frequently depicted is a raven, as here, with a 'hawk' mask carved on its breast and a reclining figure on its back. The figure has its tongue extending g into the beak of another bird, whose head forms the tail of the raven. The extended tongue occurs often in northwest Coast art. In some cases it has sexual significance, but here it is likely to be connected with the concepts of the tongue as the locus of life force; the acquisition of animal tongues and their associated spiritual power was a crucial part of the shaman's visual quest (see de Laguna, 1972: 676-80). Raven rattles are popularly classified as chief's rattles, in contrast to shaman's rattles, which depict other kinds of bird. However, raven rattles have been found in shaman's graves (de Laguna 1972: pls. 176, 187; Wardwell, 1978: no. 52), and reliable first-hand evidence for firm classification is lacking, as indeed is information about the symbolic significance of the scenes carved on the back of the rattles. In the second half of the nineteenth century, raven rattles were part of the standard ceremonial accoutrements of chiefs throughout the northern coast, along with Chilkat blankets and head dresses. However, this may reflect a change of emphasis, where the rattle's significance as a marker of high status superseded a former, shamanic, importance, about which we have little information. The rattle is well preserved, and the figure, with its bear-like head and claws, is larger and more sculpturally accomplished than many other examples. Besides the Lisiansky rattle, which also retains its strong colours, this one is similar to an example collected among the Haida (probably in the 1870s) which is illustrated by Niblack (1888: pls. LIII-IV). Provenance: formerly in the collection of James Hooper, no. 1455 (Phelps, 1976: pl. 179).
In: Steven Hooper (ed.). 1997. Catalogue to the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. University of East Anglia.
Object details
Type of object: Rattle
Type category: Religious/cult or fetish object
Material: Unspecified paint
Width: 10 cm
Height: 31 cm
Depth: 12 cm
Style/Period: Unknown/unspecified
Date range: 1830 -1870 CE
Discovery site: Unknown/unspecified
Personal name: -
Role: -
Culture: Tlingit
Record data
Artworld id: 11463
Current accession number: UEA 831
Former accession number: -
Credit line: -
Recorded by: LH
Record date: Thu, 1st Jan 1970
Copyright: Copyright© by the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich, 2002. All Rights reserved