CARVED AND DECORATED CANOE PADDLE
Late 19th Century
Possibly by the Penobscot Tribe of Maine.
With polychrome geometric decoration, pyrographic acorn decoration and a découpaged image of an American Native's bust. Length 66." Condition Some finish loss.
Low Estimate $300.00
High Estimate $400.00
Not sure about the authenticity of the Penobscot origin. The "acorn decoration" described by the seller obviously look more like pine cones and coniferous needles. A closeup shot of the découpaged photo also reveals a partially etched name...
It seems the image is of Southern Cheyenne chief, Wolf Robe (b. 1838-1841, d. 1910, Oklahoma). It was taken by photographer Frank Reinhart showcasing the Chief after being awarded the Benjamin Harrison Peace Medal apparently given during yet another forced migration of his people.
The photo of Wolf Robe was the basis for many sculptors and artists who modified or used this image in their works. Being on the arid midwestern and southern plains, The Cheyenne were never a paddling community so his image seems an odd selection. It's likely the paddle and artwork were meant to portray a romanticized view of native art for the souvenir trade.
Feb 26, 2016 update: The auction listing has now added additional photos of the entire paddle and a closeup of the grip area. See that post here.