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Inuit Stone Carving /A Fisherman with His Catch /Marked with Canadian ID Number and Syllabics for Isa Smiler/ Circa 1948-1970

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    Posted 7 years ago

    (1145 items)

    This little 5 1/4" guy was on the shelf with the ceramics and odd bits at GW yesterday. He's pretty heavy for his size and the stone seems quite hard. There is a lot of yellowish veining running through the stone itself. I immediately recognized it as an Inuit carving from the markings on the bottom. I had just seen an episode of the BBC's "Antiques Roadshow" where a lady brought in her father's collection of sculptures from a trip he had taken to Alaska. Surprisingly these can go for hundreds to thousands ! The marks on the bottom are Inuit syllabic writing along with some numbers. Depends on the orientation. They could be the artists signature or the title of the piece or both. I found some syllabic charts online but could only find two of the marks. The rest is a jumble. The triangle is " i" . The mark next to it that looks like an "L" with a leg is " sa" So in the order it's written maybe "isa" The second line looks more like numbers with some symbols. That's a mystery. Anyone read or write Inuit ? I'd love to know what this says. -Mike-
    A bit more research solved the mystery numbers on the bottom. They are the old Canadian government disc ID number . This number was the personal ID for an Inuit carver.The disc number ID system began in the 1940's and ceased by the 1970's. Now I have an age range, so I should be able to find out who the artist is as long as this piece isn't a fake .

    NOTE : The syllabics pic was upside down and they are read after the ID numbers.This number belongs to the artist Isa (Asa) Smiler born in 1921 and who died in 1986. He belonged to the Inukjuak community in Port Harrison Canada and has had his work exhibited at numerous galleries ! Got this info from here :

    Info Courtesy of
    Isa Smiler
    Inukjuak, Quebec, Canada
    “Born in [Inukjuak], Isa [was] always … a hunter, trapper and a fisherman who [lived] off the land. He began carving in 1948, after Jim Houston … had been on a visit to the settlement. His favourite subjects [were] the Arctic animals of his environment, especially otters. …[Isa signed] his work with his disc number, syllabics or Isa. S.”*
    Isa’s autobiography was featured in the Summer-Fall, 1977 issue of “Inuktitut”. His wife Lucy was an artist, and his son Daniel is a carver living in Inukjuak.
    *from “The Inuit Artists of Inoucdjouac, P.Q.”, 1978
    Excerpt courtesy Inuit Art Section.

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    1. mikelv85 mikelv85, 7 years ago
      Thanks Phil. I just found out about the Disc ID number on the bottom. So I'm going to see if I can locate the artist name.
    2. shawnicus shawnicus, 7 years ago
      thanks for the info you sent me on my lil seal sculpture sent off to find out what thye know yesterday,..heres hopign mines as cool as yours is!!,..
    3. mikelv85 mikelv85, 7 years ago
      You're welcome shawnicus . Still waiting on my verdict as well. It's been a couple of days. Hoping to hear from them any day now -Mike-
    4. mikelv85 mikelv85, 7 years ago
      I finally got an e mail from Christa Ouimet director of the Inuit art department at Waddington's in Toronto. She was glad to help but due to the large amount of requests they are only appraising pieces they deem salable in their gallery. Apparently the pictures I sent didn't get though via the online form I sent. So I had to send them to her directly. So it's a bit more waiting and hoping until she reviews them.
    5. mikelv85 mikelv85, 7 years ago
      Received my appraisal today from Christa Ouimet at Waddington's auction gallery. While it is by the well known artist Isa Smiler, it's one of his lesser works and estimated to auction between $150-$250. Not the huge sum of $46,000 which one of his works sold for but still pretty good for an eight dollar investment ! -Mike-
    6. antiquerose antiquerose, 7 years ago
      Good Sleuthing there!!!!
    7. mikelv85 mikelv85, 7 years ago
      Thanks antiquerose.... I love it when the research all comes together ! -Mike-

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