Hopi katsina figures – popularly known as kachina dolls – are figures carved by the Hopi Native American people, as a way to enlighten young girls and new brides about katsinam, the immortal beings that bring rain, control other aspects of the natural world and society, and act as messengers between human beings and the spirit world. They are typically made from cottonwood root. The example shown here, a little worse for wear, is a 20th century carved polychrome painted kachina doll, 10 inches tall and with part of a foot missing, the poor dear.
The doll sold for $2,760 at a Fall Decorative & Fine Arts Sale held Sept. 20th, 2016 by Bunch Auctions in Chadds Ford, Pa. Kachina figures originated in the late 19th century. The oldest known surviving figure dates to the 18th century. It was a flat object with an almost indistinguishable shape that suggested a head and contained minimal body paint. Most Hopi manufacturers today that sell dolls do it for trade and do not necessarily make dolls that reflect authentic katsinam. The dolls today are much more exquisite than those of the past and are very expensive.