Large Carved Caribou Lamp
Animal sculptures and carvings are traditional accents for rustic homes where they complement decorative schemes that are rich in organic textures and natural elements. An attractive animal carving that also fulfills the necessary function of lighting is all the better.
This lamp (26″ wide, 9″ deep, 32″ high) is a dramatically scaled carving of a caribou, created and signed by the artisan Arthur Dubé.
He was a member of a family of accomplished carvers from the Saint-Jean-Port-Joli region of Quebec (on the eastern shore of the St. Lawrence River about an hour northeast of Quebec City) which has been known for its tradition of folk carving since the early 1900s. Over the years we’ve had a number of lamps carved in the 1930s-1970s by the Dubé brothers Arthur, Clement and André, most often in the forms of moose, bear, squirrels, deer, rams and dogs. Caribou lamps are uncommon, as are any of their carved animal table lamps of such large dimensions.
This lamp is carved from butternut, which is one of the softer hardwoods that carves readily. The caribou, tree and base are carved from one piece of wood, and the removable antlers are carved separately.
The shade is also handmade, with alternating wood slats of butternut and cedar joined with lashing.
The caribou, a symbol of wilderness, has unfortunately been nearly extirpated in the lower 48 States. They need large undeveloped tracts of land for roaming and foraging, primarily on lichen and low-growing shrubs like huckleberry. We were lucky to see them in the wild a number of years ago in Trepassey, Newfoundland on the southern tip of the Avalon peninsula where we crept across a misty moor to get a close look at them. We gathered a tuft of shed white guard hairs (they are hollow for insulation value), which is still tucked away in one of our bird field guides. Back in the 1980s and 1990s when we saw them, the Newfoundland population of Woodland Caribou was over 90,000, but it is now estimated at 37,000 individuals (The Natural History of Canadian Mammals, D. Naughton, 2012).
This lamp thus has a lot going for it – as an aesthetically appealing piece of vintage folk art, as a useful rustic accessory, and as a reminder of one species’ tenuous hold on life in the wilderness.