Courting Flute

Courting Flute


Region / Tribe: Plains / attributed to the Kiowa

Circa: 2nd half 19th Century

Material: wood, glue or pitch, cloth, hide, lead, pigments

Dimension: L. 21 1/2” x dia. 1 1/4” (flute stop L. 4 1/4”)

Condition: Overall excellent, wear consistent with use, no restoration

References: Ewers, John C. Plains Indian Sculpture. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., 1986. (for a detailed study of the form, “Love Medicine and Courting Flutes” pp. 159-167. See p. 165, fig 15 for a very similar Kiowa bird effigy flute.

Collection History:

-Private Collection, NY

-Private Collection, NM

Comments: Of typical construction with two hollowed sections joined with pitch or glue with the seams covered in long narrow red painted strips of cloth, the hide ties, yellow painted - extend in decorative fringe. The effigy flute stop, atop a gasket of flattened lead, depicts in bold abstract form a carved large bird, painted red with a black beak. “Bird effigy carved stops appear on flutes from many tribes but they are especially typical of the Kiowa instruments, (Ewers, p. 163). Four examples are in the Smithsonian Collection. Courting flutes have been described variously as “dangerously powerful instruments of love”(Ewers, p. 166). This is an exceptional early example of a scarce and desirable form. 

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