Bodmer's Celebrated Mandan Warrior Mató-Tópe:
Adorned with the insignia of his warlike deeds
Karl Bodmer's wonderful colored portrait of the highly decorated Mandan chief Mató-Tópe, aka Ma-to-toh-pe or Four Bears (c. 1784-1837). This is a reduced lithograph version of the plate that originally appeared as Tableau 14 in the pictorial atlas of Prince Maximilian of Wied's monumental travel account of the Western Plains. The present lithograph, by J. Honegger, was issued in 1845 at Zurich as plate no. 35 in H. R. Schinz’s Naturgeschichte und Abbildungen des Menschen.
A favorite subject of both George Catlin and Karl Bodmer, Four Bears earned his sobriquet after battling the Assiniboine tribe with the purported strength of four bears. The Mandan warrior is shown in the present hand-colored lithograph, which is based on an original watercolor painting by Karl Bodmer, sporting elaborate warrior's paint and holding an impressive tomahawk. Transversely fastened in his hair can be seen a wooden knife, painted bright red, symbolic of killing a Cheyenne chief with his knife. Six wooden sticks festoon Four Bears' hair, representing an equivalent number of musket wounds he had suffered. An arrow wound is indicated by the finely colored wing feather of a wild turkey. Other colorful feathers are believed to come from an owl. Four Bears' face is partially painted red, with contrasting yellow also applied. His torso is covered with reddish-brown stripes, with the addition of eighteen whitish stripes painted down his right arm, representing his exploits on the warpath. In contrast to other leading warriors who tended to stand out as tall and sturdy, Four Bears was, according to Prince Maximillian, of slim build and average height.