Woman's Peaked Cap

Woman's Peaked Cap

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Region / Tribe:   Northeast Woodlands/ Maine-Nova Scotia MicMac

Circa:   1830-1860

Material:   Black and red woolen stroud cloth, silk ribbon, tiny glass beads, silk threads

Dimension:   H. 14” x W. 7 1/2” 

Condition:   Overall Excellent - one small repair to blue stroud, a number of very small holes in the blue stroud, minor bead loss   

Comments:   This is a highly sophisticated and classic example of a MicMac woman’s peaked cap. The overall design scheme is composed of paired single and double s-scrolls. This is the earliest and dominant symbolic motif of the Eastern Woodlands. It is understood to represent a generative life force with “therapeutic symbolic association” (reference #5, p.80)as well as political symbolism(reference #5, p.69) withgenealogical references according to tribal custom.

The development of stellate and floral elements emanating from the central bars of the primary scrolls suggest an early to mid 19th century date. The subtle use of cream colored silk thread filler is an ingenious addition not seen before. The top seam and back middle design of ribbon appliqué are exceptionally well executed adding to the overall beauty of the cap. Along the linear panels at the base of the cap are multiple designs utilizing twisted thread in double peaked linear patterns with beads in zigzag and repeat designs. The craftsmanship is exceptional.

Color symbolism is typically understood to be functioning in ceremonial garments. This cap employs rich, dynamic use of color. Red depicts the powers of the Upper World as well as being a life color. Black symbolizes the powers of the Lower World as well as signifying mourning. White is regarded as a symbol of purity. The yellow may represent the color of the Middle realm where humans live. 

Surrounding oneself in therapeutic designs calls forth spiritual protection for the wearer (reference #5).

References:  

1. Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing, and Costume, Bruce J. Bourque and Laureen A. Labar, Maine State Museum, Augusta, University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 2009, page 31 and page 84.

2. Art of the North American Indians: The Thaw Collection, Gilbert T. Vincent, Ahweey Brydon, and Ralph T. Coe, Fenimore Art Museum, University of Washington Press, 2000, page 83.

3. Elitekey: MicMac Material Culture from 1600 to the Present, Ruth Holmes Whitehead, The Nova Scotia Museum, January 1980, pages. 15, 23, 24 and 25.

4. Sacred Circles: Two Thousand Years of North American Indian Art, Ralph T. Coe, Nelson Gallery of Art - Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, Missouri, 1977, page 86.

5. Symbolism in Penobscot Art, Frank G. Speck, The American Museum of Natural History, New York City, 1927, page 69 and page 80.

6. The Double-Curve Motive in Northeastern Algonkian Art, Frank G. Speck, Canada Department of Mines Memoir 42, Ottawa Government Printing Bureau, 1914, page 7.

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