Canadian Fine Art

May 29June 03, 2021
Auction begins to close at 8:00 pm ET

Online Auction
LOT 15

Lot 15


Lot 15 Details


acrylic on deer skin
signed in syllabics
17 ins x 38 ins; 43.2 cms x 96.5 cms

Estimate $12,000-$16,000

Realised: $16,800
Price Includes Buyer's Premium ?

Lot Report

Additional Images

E.A. Studios Jasper Ltd., Jasper, AB, purchased 2006
Private Collection, Ontario


Prolific artist and original member of the “Indian Group of Seven,” Norval Morrisseau created works in which Anishinaabe mythology, aesthetics and life came together on canvas. Drawing onlookers into the worlds he painted in acrylic, Morrisseau’s flair for storytelling and hidden nuance elevate his works beyond initial realization to something deeply profound and personal.

Completed in 1987, The Merman is a visually captivating and technically unique work by Morrisseau. Painted directly onto deer hide, and assumed to be one of only five other deer hide canvas paintings done by the artist, The Merman honours the Anishinaabe water spirit beings called Nibiinaabeg who appear within Anishinaabe mythology as teachers and helpers, and have their own Clan under the Giishkizhigwan.

The Nibiinaabe represented in the painting is shown wearing a medicine pouch around his neck, which can be interpreted as a healing gesture or as a means of providing safety to those who hold onto the painting. The many fish seen depicted in the merman’s belly indicates the painting could have been made as a medicine painting to bring about fruitful fishing seasons or as a call for abundance to be provided.

The merman, who is painted in the iconic Woodland Style that Morrisseau is known for, is a unique figure differing from much of Morrisseau’s other work by appearing alone, without any thought lines or additional beings. This makes this painting a standout amongst his other works and provides a deep intrigue into what the artist himself was conveying through this choice.

Emma Steen is a freelance curator and writer, as well as the Community Relations Manager for the Indigenous Curatorial Collective. Her area of interest lies in art that explores bodies, sex and love with anti-colonial intention. We thank her for contributing this essay.

Certificate of authenticity from E.A. Studios, Jasper signed by Galal Helmy will be provided to the purchaser.


The work is in excellent condition with no visible issues to report. As this work is painted on deer skin, there are naturally occurring variances of texture on the surface of the support.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated government restrictions, Waddington’s regrets that we are unable to make lots from this auction available for pre-auction, in-person inspection. This condition report has been prepared by Waddington’s as a courtesy and has been provided for guidance only. The Lot is offered in the condition it is in at the time of sale. Any reference to condition in the report for the Lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the Lot form part of the condition report for the Lot provided by Waddington’s. Please note, certain images of the Lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the Lot and may represent colours and shades which are different to the Lot’s actual colour and shades. Waddington’s specialists are not professional conservators or restorers and the report set forth is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Waddington’s. Prospective buyers should bear in mind that this report will not disclose any imperfections which may only be revealed during the course of subsequent restoration. Buyers are reminded that Waddington’s warranties with respect to any property are limited as set forth in the Conditions of Sale and do not extend to condition.

LOT 15

About Condition Ratings

  • 5 Stars: Excellent - No discernable damage, flaws or imperfections
  • 4 Stars: Very Good - Minor flaws or imperfections visible only under close inspection using specialised instruments or black light
  • 3 Stars: Good - Minor flaws visible upon inspection under standard lighting
  • 2 Stars: Fair - Exhibits flaws or damage that may draw the eye under standard lighting
  • 1 Star: Poor - Flaws or damage immediately apparent under standard lighting (examples: missing components, rips, broken glass, damaged surfaces, etc.)

Note: Condition ratings and condition details are the subjective opinions of our specialists and should be used as a guide only. Waddington’s uses due care when preparing condition details, however, our staff are not professional restorers or conservators. Condition details and reports are not warranties and each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the buyer’s terms and conditions of sale. In all cases the prospective purchaser is responsible for inspecting the property themselves prior to placing a bid.