figure (art)


This little figure of a naked seated man was probably found in an Inuit grave in Canada. Its exact purpose is uncertain, but little figures were sometimes placed in the graves of children. These are not thought to be dolls, but guiding figures, there to help the children in what ever afterlife follows. The use of ivory figures in the way helps invoke protective spirits and prevent the ghost of the child returning to haunt the living.

These figures have not been made for this purpose for many years, but today, Inuit carvers across the Arctic do make stone and ivory figurines based on this style for sale to outsiders. These demonstrate high levels of artistic skill and show everyday activities in the Arctic, acting as miniature ambassadors for the communities from which they come and their ways of life.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: