Hopi Cottonwood Carving of a Snake Dancer [SOLD]


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Carver Unknown

This cottonwood carving is an excellent representation of a Hopi Pueblo Snake Dancer. The body is that of a young man, which we would expect to be engaging in this dance. He has an excellent face and detailed torso. Both hands were excellently executed. Leather strips are wrapped around both wrists, and leather pairs cross over his chest. There are armbands on both arms. A long leather sash hangs on his right side, and yarn ties on both legs.

This carving of a Hopi Snake Dancer dates to the mid-twentieth century. The carver remains anonymous but would not likely have admitted carving it at the time anyway. Very few carvers today will carve these figures and it was even more restrictive a century ago. This is an excellent example of a Hopi Snake Dancer.

There are markings on the back of the doll that appear to be identification numbers for a collection, but we are not able to identify the collection. The marking, KW-58, is repeated twice.

The Snake Dancer is one among several non-katsinas which are carved that are categorized as katsina dolls. Others frequently carved are the Apache Mountain Spirit Dancers, the Butterfly Girl, Two-Horned Priests, and a Hopi maiden.

At the end of the nineteenth century, very few tourists had ever seen the Hopi Snake Dance; however, many had heard tales of a dramatic ritual that only occurred every other year in isolated Indian villages in Arizona. This religious ceremony that Victorian society found so horrifying—and so fascinating—soon grew into a symbolic representation of "Indian Country" in the Southwest. The Passenger Department of the Santa Fe Railway played upon sensationalist, tourist visions of American Indians when it published Walter Hough's travel guide The Moki Snake Dance. It was described as "A popular account of that unparalleled dramatic pagan ceremony of the Pueblo Indians of Tusayan, Arizona, with incidental mention of their life and customs."

What is a Kachina?

Condition: very good condition

Provenance: this Hopi Cottonwood Carving of a Snake Dancer is from the collection of a client from California

Recommended Reading: The Moki Snake Dance by Walter Hough, Ph.D, Passenger Department Santa Fe Route, 1898 (Reprinted by Avanyu Publishing in 1992)

TAGS: Katsina DollsHopi PuebloHopi Kachina Dolls

Close up view of the face of this snake dancer.

Carver Unknown
C4698A-snake.jpgC4698A-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.