Pulled from the original steel and copper plates, engraved in Paris between 1836 and 1843 under Karl Bodmer's direction, after the artist's own watercolours drawn from nature during the journey.
The engravings are hand-printed in colours, à la poupée, with extensive hand-colouring and some application of gum arabic, in the nineteenth-century manner.
Engraved by Hurlimann
Printed by Bougeard
Bodmer painted the three portraits featured in this aquatint over the period of a year. Schuh-De-Ga-Che, or "He-Who-Smokes," the Ponca chief pictured at right, was one of two Ponca men who boarded the steamer Yellow-Stone above the confluence of the Big Sioux River in May, 1833, during the initial voyage up the Missouri. Bodmer sketched his likeness in pencil while enroute to a Ponca summer camp near the mouth of the Niobrara. He is shown wearing a large peace medal bearing the image of U. S. President James Madison. Unusual, but not unique, is the short beard on his chin.
The portrait of the central figure, an Oto man, was done at Pilcher's trading post in Nebraska Territory in May, 1834, during the return downriver to St. Louis, Bodmer showed him wearing his hair in a style which was popular with several Missouri River tribes at this time. The tiny padlock attached to the thin, beaded necklace at his throat may have been a gift or keepsake, or perhaps it was a trade item that had caught his fancy.
The Missouri man represented at left, named Mahinkacka or "Maker of Knives" according to an inscription on the reverse of the portrait at Joslyn, also wears his hair in a roach. Bodmer painted the original at Joseph Roubedoux's trading post near the modern St. Joseph, Missouri, again in May, 1834. In addition to the elaborate choker and earrings made of multiple strands of tubular "wampum" shell beads, he appears in a commercial or "trade" blanket instead of the buffalo-hide robes worn by his companions in this print.
A view of the Ponca village near the Niobrara was reproduced in Vignette XI of this series. See also Tableau 3 for other examples of the hairstyle of the period.
Text by David Hunt, Director, Stark Museum, Orange, Texas, USA