Ball-headed War Club with Carvings of Birds and Men
Arts of the Americas
On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, Visions and Myths of a Nation, 1800–1890
The Jarvis Collection of Native American Plains Art
The articles in this case and the adjacent clothing case are some of the earliest and finest Eastern Plains pieces in existence. They were collected by Dr. Nathan Sturges Jarvis, a military surgeon stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, between 1833 and 1836. He purchased some of the objects, while some may have been given in exchange for his medical services. These works display indigenous people’s ingenuity in combining trade materials such as cloth, metal, and glass beads with traditional hides, red pipestone, and porcupine and bird quills.
early 19th century
22 1/2 x 6 x 3 in. (57.2 x 15.2 x 7.6 cm) (show scale)
Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund
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Chippewa (Native American). Ball-headed War Club with Carvings of Birds and Men, early 19th century. Wood, pigment, 22 1/2 x 6 x 3 in. (57.2 x 15.2 x 7.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund, 50.67.84. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 50.67.84_acetate_bw.jpg)
overall, 50.67.84_acetate_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Ball-headed war club with incised designs on the handle including six birds on one side and four (possibly) dancing or fighting figures on the other. The bird motifs are filled with black paint, the figures with red paint. The ball is painted black and there is fire decoration on the handle.
The painted and incised designs on this club consist of six black gallinaceous birds (prairie chicken-like in silhouette) on one side. On the opposite side, two pairs of red human figures run toward one another. Each of the four carries a pipe in one hand and, in the other, an upraised arrow in an enigmatic pose.
As demonstrated in this example, clubs were carved from one piece of wood. Often a thick branch attached to a trunk was chosen, or a knot of a tree would be formed into a head and the attached portion of the trunk into a handle, so that the grain had structural strength. The club is flat handled and sided and stained black at both the handle end and ball end.
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