Private Collection, Montreal; Walker's Auction, 18 November 2015, Lot 318; Acquired from the above by the present Private Collection, Toronto.
Jean Blodgett, in her 1984 article, "Christianity and Inuit Art," tells that Tungilik first began carving as a young man at the encouragement of Oblate missionaries . Father Franz van de Velde recorded that he, the priest, asked Tungilik to reproduce a bust of Christ. The Oblate cleric wrote of the incident around this 1945 sculpture, nowin in the Itsanitaq Museum, in Churchill, Manitoba,
“One day I gave him [Tungilik] a small bust of Christ, asking him to reproduce it in ivory [...] When I had long forgotten all about it, he had brought me the finished product. I was overwhelmed. A beautiful little bust, a head crowned with thorns. It was eight or nine centimetre high [...] .
Though the Oblates undoubtedly influenced his career, to what extent Tungilik was a practicing Catholic is unclear. However, individuals like Tungilik, who were raised in a traditional, animist religion, may have syncretically transferred some of those traditional practices to Christian rituals, such as the act of prayer. According to Frank Valle, "the contemporary [Christian] stress on observance may be interpreted as continuous with the traditional emphasis on conforming to the rules laid down by spirits” .
1. Jean Blodgett, "Christianity and Inuit Art," The Beaver, Autumn 1984, p. 20
2. Franz Van de Velde, Canadian Eskimo Artists: A biographical description of Pelly Bay, (Yellowknife: Government of the Northwest Territories, 1970), p. 23
3. Frank Valle, Kabloona and the Eskimo of Central Keewatin, (Ottawa: Northern Coordination Research Centre, Department of Northern and National Resources, 1962) p. 178.