Rare Lithographic Image of Osage Men and Women Who Visited Europe in 1827
Rare colored lithograph of a six members of the Osage Nation, promoting their arrival in Europe on "tour" in 1827.
In 1827, six Osage people (four men and two women) traveled to Europe, organized by St. Louis promoter David DeLaunay. Among the Osages were Big Soldier, Little Chief, Hawk Woman (or Grothomil, Gthe-Do'n-Wi'n), Young Solider, Black Bird (or Black Spirit, Washing-Sahba in Osage), and Sacred Sun (or Mohongo, Mi-Ho'n-Ga). The group originally consisting of twelve Osage, along with DeLaunay, set out toward St. Louis by raft, but an accident on the river destroyed many of the furs which they had brought to pay for the trip. As a result, only six completed the trip by steamboat to New Orleands and then on to Le Havre via the New England, where they arrived on July 27, 1827.
The group toured Europe initially to great fanfair, visiting France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany Switzerland and Italy. While in Belgium Mohongo gave birth to twin girls, one of whom was adopted by a wealthy Belgian woman. The other daughter returned to the United States with her mother to be painted (sitting on her mother's lap) by Charles Bird King -- a beautiful portrait that appears in Thomas L. McKenney's famous book, The Indian Tribes of North America.
In France, the Osages were declared "noble savages," and the present engraving certainly provides insight into European perceptions of Native Americans. The image depicts the four men and two young women during their European visit. The two women appear to be wearing European-inspired dresses, while the men proudly don native dress and accoutrements. The woman on the right rests her left hand upon her forehead in a beautiful gesture of ennui. During their stay in Europe the Osages went to the theatre, traveled in a hot-air balloon, and had an audience with the King of France.
After extensive travel, the trip fell on hard times when DeLaunay was arrested for fraud and European interest peetered out. The Osages were reduced to begging in the suburbs of Paris in order to fund their return trip, before receiving some support from the Bishop Duboug of Montauban and the Marquis de Lafayette and ultimately raising the funds necessary for the trip home. In a cruel twist, while the group were in Europe, the majority of the Osage Nation were removed from their ancestral homes on the Missouri River and Osage River to a reservation in Oklahoma.
The present image was lithographed by Pierre Lacroix in Paris, shortly after the arrival of the group in April 1827.
The image is extremely rare.
We note two examples:
- National Portrait Gallery (uncolored)
- Bibliotheque National de France: https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8414571c.item
The BnF example was acquired by the library in 1863. Collection Michel Hennin. Estampes relatives à l'Histoire de France. Tome 164, Pièces 14338-14427, période : 1826-1830.
We note an example offered for sale in the 1894 Le Bibliophile Americain, item 25747, Catalogue de livres, cartes et documents relatifs a l'Europe, Asie, Afrique, Amerique, Oceanie ... Bulletin trimestriel · Volumes 14-26