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Karl Bodmer's Illustrations to Prince
Maximillian of Wied-Neuwied's Travels in
the Interior of North America 1832-34
Published in Association with the
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

Bodmer's America

Catalogue of Prints

Facsimile of an Indian Painting [Item Image]
Engraved by Hurlimann
Printed by Bougeard
Tableau 22. Facsimile of an Indian Painting

Plains warriors recorded important tribal events or personal accomplishments through the use of abstract figures and symbols inscribed or painted on stone, wood, or hide. Toward the latter half of the nineteenth century, they employed materials such as cloth and paper, obtained in trade, and began incorporating European styles of imagery and draftsmanship into their story-telling art.

With pencils, paint, and paper supplied by Bodmer, Mandan chief Mato-Tope drew several pictures for Prince Maximilian, at least one of which was copied by Bodmer for publication in the atlas. The drawing reproduced here, describing an incident in Mato-Tope's life, shows him engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a Cheyenne chief, whom he subsequently defeated.

Mato-Tope, at left, brandishes a tomahawk in one hand, while sustaining a wound in the other hand from the knife he ultimately wrested from his assailant before killing him with it. Influenced, perhaps, by Bodmer's example as an artist, Mato-Tope pictured himself and the Cheyenne chief more or less realistically, even attempting some shading or modelling of the figures.

Like Sih-Chida, another Mandan artist, Mato-Tope seems to have gone about his picture-making in much the same way Bodmer did, first making a pencil drawing and then adding specific color. His efforts to produce correctly proportioned human figures with clearly defined facial features stand in marked contrast to the traditional Indian method of drawing to that time.

The original of this subject, included in the Maximilian-Bodmer collection at Joslyn, appears to be Bodmer's copy, not Mato-Tope's initial drawing.

Portraits of Mato-Tope are reproduced in Tableaux 13 and 14. Sih-Chida is pictured in Tableau 20, Mato-Tope's fight with the Cheyenne chief also is depicted in the lower left corner of the painted bison robe featured in Tableau 21.

Text by David Hunt, Director, Stark Museum, Orange, Texas, USA

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