Tab 45 - Mehskeme-Sukahs, Blackfoot Chief; Tatsicki-Stomick, Piekann Chief

Karl Bodmer

Bodmer’s America


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 Allais
Printed by Bougeard

Among the portraits Bodmer painted at Fort McKenzie during August and September, 1833, was that of Mehskehme-Sukahs, or "Iron Shirt," the Piegan Blackfeet chief pictured at left, who was one of the more distinguished tribal leaders to greet Prince Maximilian's party on its arrival at the fort on August 9, 1833.

At the time, he was wearing a scarlet, lace-trimmed military coat which had been given to him by British traders in the area. For this portrait by Bodmer, however, he wore a hide shirt decorated with otter fur, beadwork, and metal trade buttons. Attached to locks of his long hair were feathers, a bear claw, and the skin of a small ermine or weasel.

Shown at right is Tatsicki-Stomick, or "Middle Bull," principal chief of the Piegan Blackfeet when Bodmer painted his portrait in August, 1833. In order to secure their friendship and allegiance, chiefs often were given presents by fur company officials which included flags, medals, uniforms, and plumed hats. Maximilian despised such apparel, preferring Bodmer's subjects to be represented in their native dress. Although Tatsicki-Stomick owned a fine shirt of bighorn sheepskin elaborately ornamented with ermine fur, feathers, and locks of hair, he wore a simple garb decorated with two plain bands of beadwork for this portrait by Bodmer.

Note: Flags given to tribal leaders did not denote formal allegiance, but were considered primarily decorative. Peace medals, however, generally signified what the name suggests, and were given to important individuals at councils, treaty-signings, and the like, as well as on less formal occasions. The United States began issuing peace medals in 1789, the year Washington became President, following a precedent earlier established by the British in North America.

Other Blackfeet subjects are featured in Tableau. A Shoshoni woman whose portrait was painted at Fort McKenzie is reproduced in Tableau 33.

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

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