Title: Shaman Figure
Date: 1830–80
Artist: Simeon Stilthda
Haida, c.1800–1889
Culture: Haida
Medium: alder or cedar with pigment
Dimensions:
22 x 9 x 7 1/2 in. (55.9 x 22.9 x 19.1 cm)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object Number: 132:1976
Place made: British Columbia, Canada
Current Location: On View, Gallery 326
Notes:
This carving is a masterpiece of Native American art. The figure’s remarkable naturalism, evident in the sunken cheeks and skeletal torso, is a dramatic departure from the abstraction that is more typical of Northwest Coast art. Shaman figures such as this were placed in front of shaman graves and served as a guardian for eternity. As a shaman receives supernatural power through fasting, these figures are often depicted as emaciated and near death. Their spiritual essence was partly contained in their uncut hair, wrapped in a bun.

Simeon Stilthda reveals his virtuosity in form and detail as he portrays shamanistic qualities of emaciation, taut skin, and typical clothing, including aprons with vertical lines of fringe. Only four figures carved by Stilthda are known to exist today.
Provenance
c.1900
Private Collection, OR, USA

- 1976
Paul Kalicki, Madison, IL, by inheritance [1]

1976 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Paul Kalicki [2]


Notes:
[1] Saint Louis Art Museum curator Lee A. Parsons describes the provenance. In a letter dated February 15, 1977, to Elizabeth Carmichael at the British Museum in London, Parsons notes that a local man's grandmother acquired the shaman figure in Oregon. The grandmother "brought it to Illinois 75 years ago," as Parson describes in a letter dated March 22, 1977, to Bill Holm at the Burke Museum in Seattle. [SLAM document files].

[2] Minutes of the Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, December 16, 1976.



Exhibition History
Title: Made in America: Ten Centuries of American Art
Date: February 5, 1995 - October 6, 1996
Venue: Carnegie Museum of Art
Venue: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Venue: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Venue: Toledo Museum of Art
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: A Celebration of Acquisitions: Gifts and Purchases 1975-1979
Date: December 2, 1979 – January 6, 1980
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Publication History
Title: Pacific Northwest Native American Art in Museums and Private Collections
Author: Robin Wright
Author: Bill Holm
Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Handbook of the Collections
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Native North American Art
Periodical Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Author: Janet Catherine Berlo
Author: John W. Nunley
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Northern Haida Master Carvers
Author: Robin Wright
Title: See for Yourself: Highlights of the Collection
Periodical Title: A Gallery Guide for The Saint Louis Art Museum
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Two Haida Artists from Yah: Will John Gwaythil and Simeon Stilthda Please Step Apart?
Author: Robin Wright
Title: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Recent Acquisition: Northwest Coast Indian Wood Sculpture
Periodical Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Author: Lee A. Parsons
Title: Tangible Visions: Northwest Coast Indian Shamanism and Its Art
Author: Allen Wardwell
Title: Made in America: Ten Centuries of American Art
Author: Jeremy Strick
Editor: Kathryn C. Johnson
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
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