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An arresting assemblage of early 19th-century Native American portraiture, Karl Bodmer's aquatint, Missouri Indian. Oto Indian. Chief of the Puncas, offers an intimate glimpse of three individuals from different tribes, encountered during Bodmer's expedition along the Missouri River in 1833 and 1834.

The three subjects of this piece were met at distinct times and locations during Bodmer's expedition. On the right is Schuh-De-Gá-Che (He Who Smokes), a Ponca chief who boarded the fur company steamboat just below the Niobrara River on May 11, 1833. The other two figures were encountered on the return trip in 1834, further downriver. The Oto man in the center, whose name Maximilian did not record, was met at Pilcher's trading post on May 12, while the Missouri man, known as Mahinkacha (Maker of Knives), was encountered at Roubidoux's post on May 16.

his image was created amidst a period of intense exploration and documentation of the North American West. Karl Bodmer, a Swiss painter, was a key figure in this movement, renowned for his precise and sensitive portraiture of Native Americans. In collaboration with German explorer Prince Maximilian of Wied, Bodmer embarked on an ambitious voyage up the Missouri River in the early 1830s. The encounters recorded on this journey provided the material for a series of portraits that remain an invaluable record of Indigenous cultures of the time.

Bodmer's technique of aquatint, etching, and roulette, combined with the hand-coloring and a finish of gum arabic, lends these portraits a depth and vibrancy that brings the subjects to life. The meticulous detail in their attire and ornamentation offers a rich account of their cultural practices. This print bears testament to Bodmer's enduring commitment to faithfully and respectfully representing the Indigenous peoples of North America.


Ruud's first of three states.

Condition Description
Aquatint, etching, and roulette, hand-colored and heightened with gum arabic. With the Bodmer blindstamp below center imprint line.
Ruud, Karl Bodmer's North American Prints, pages 103-106.