Inuit Tupilak #26: A Masterpiece Carved by Mathias Ulriksen


Inuit tupilak #26, a striking creation carved from a large sperm whale tooth, showcases the remarkable talent of master Inuit carver Mathias Ulriksen from Kulusuk village. This captivating piece bursts with life, featuring a smiling face with numerous teeth, a seal perched on its head, and a third figure with fangs at the base. The tupilak measures 6.5” in height, 1.75” in width, and 2.5” in depth. Unsurprisingly, this unique masterpiece has already been sold, reflecting its high demand.

Historical and Cultural Significance of Tupilaks

Tupilaks, a vibrant element of Greenlandic Inuit art, have enchanted people for many centuries. Historically, these spiritual creatures wielded the power to cast spells on their makers’ enemies. When early European explorers arrived, they were captivated by Inuit legends. Consequently, this spurred the creation of tupilak carvings from sperm whale teeth. Over time, artisans expanded their material repertoire to include narwhal, walrus tusk, wood, and caribou antler, continually renewing the tradition.

Artistic Features of Tupilak #26

  • Carved from Sperm Whale Tooth: This material underscores the piece’s connection to traditional Inuit carving techniques.
  • Multiple Figures: The tupilak pulsates with intricate details, showcasing a main figure with a beaming face and numerous teeth, a seal poised on its head, and a fierce third figure with fangs at the base.
  • Dimensions: At 6.5” high, 1.75” wide, and 2.5” deep, the tupilak commands attention with its impressive size.
  • Master Craftsmanship: Mathias Ulriksen’s expert carving breathes life into the piece, revealing deep cultural insights and high skill.

Evolution of Tupilak Carvings

Initially, European curiosity sparked the creation of tupilak carvings from sperm whale teeth. As time progressed, modern figures often sported skeletal motifs, symbolizing spirits of the dead or mythical beings. Consequently, these carvings frequently blend human and animal forms, reflecting the rich spiritual tapestry of Inuit beliefs.

Modern Collectibility and Artistry

Today, tupilaks stand as highly prized collectibles, admired for their artistic and cultural depth. Furthermore, these carvings transcend their historical roles, now celebrated as exemplary pieces of Greenlandic Inuit art. Each creation, like Tupilak #26, vibrates with the artist’s heritage and the mystical lore of the Inuit people.

To dive deeper into the world of Inuit tupilaks and their cultural significance, explore Tribal Crafts and Art of Greenland.

large three figure tupilak

Mathias Ulriksen    Inuit

Ivory tupilak – 6.5 x 1.75 x 2.5”