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Masque du Poisson



By (artist) Inconnu


Yup'ik Ceremonial Mask from Alaska, dated from the beginning of the 20th century.

"The Yup'ik people from the region of Yukon-Kuskokwim lived primarily from fishing and hunting marine mammals.

"The large villages included one or more communal houses in which men lived and worked. It was there that they sculpted masks, often under the supervision of a shaman. It was also where festive gatherings and propitiatory ceremonies took place, in which the whole community would participate. During these festivities, the masked dancers re-enacted events from mythological tales, often performing moralizing fables or miming comic scenes.

"The Fish Mask belongs to this type of ritual. This mask is one of an identical pair - the other conserved at the Museum of the American Indian. The human face is not the principal representation on the mask; what is most important is the fish. The fish, with its head at the base, allows for a half-face to appear above, which is probably its yua (soul). Within the Yup'ik culture, the souls of animals are always represented with human features. It was the soul of the fish that would decide whether or not to give its body to that of man. His example then would be followed by other fish: the yua thus determines a period of abundance or famine for the community. The grimacing mouth on the mask reflects the ambivalence of the decisive moment of the life of this fish: the animal gives itself, but at the same time is destroyed by the man who eats it. The menacing mouth also denotes the observation of natural laws by the fish; it forewarns the man that the observance of taboos and rules concerning fishing must be respected. If these laws are not respected, the animal world will not forgive man. This sculpture, with its half-animal, half-human personality, evokes an important duality at the heart of Yup'ik beliefs." (Notice from the Museum of Quai Branly, Pavillon of Sessions, Museum of the Louvre)


- Germain Viatte, Tu fais peur tu émerveilles, Musée du Quai-Branly, acquisitions 1998/2005, Musée du Quai-Branly/Réunion des Musées nationaux, Paris, 2006, rep. p.45, fig. 15.

Creation dateDébut 20e siècle
Physical descriptionBois polychrome, plumes H. 48 cm

Musée du Quai Branly, Paris : 70.1999.1.2

Size48,00 cm
Keywords, , ,
CategoriesNative Americans, Etnographical Art, Inuit Yup'ik Art
Set[Photos d'objets] photos in the studio
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See also

2 Works

Photos d'objets d'Amérique du Nord et d'Océanie


Deux albums de photographies d'objets d'Amérique du Nord et d'Océanie, annotées par André Breton.

121 images, une courte notice descriptive, des liens.

[Photos d'objets] photos in the studio


Portrait d'André Breton dans son appartement à New-York

Elisa Claro Breton

Cinq photographies d'André Breton dans son appartement à New-York en 1945, dont une avec Elisa.
Cinq images, une notice descriptive à compléter, une exposition, une bibliographie.

[Exhibitions] 1991, boîte archives bleue, Beaubourg, [Photos d'objets] photos in the studio