Alaskan comb with bird-like design

Contributed by Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Antler comb from Tlingit people, Southern Alaska, 18th century. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, UEA 875

This comb was collected in 1794 during the voyage of Captain George Vancouver (born King's Lynn, Norfolk, 1757)The comb was collected at Cross Sound, southern Alaska, in July 1794 during Captain George Vancouver's voyage in the Pacific on HMS Discovery (1791-5) and is one of the earliest documented pieces to have been collected among the Tlingit people.

Born in 1757 in King's Lynn, Norfolk, Vancouver sailed on James Cook's second and fateful third voyage (Cook died in Hawaii in 1779). Vancouver's mapping of the Northwest coast of America was exceptionally detailed and continued to guide voyagers for generations.

The art of the peoples of the Northwest coast of America is notable for the dramatic use of animal forms such as the stylised bird on this comb, which possibly represents the mythical raven. Combs like this were used as hair ornaments and were valued as objects for display and exchange.

The comb was acquired for the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, UEA, in 1983.

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