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 two portraits represented in this aquatint at St. Louis in late March or early April, 1833. Massika or "Turtle," pictured at left, was one of a delegation of Sac and Fox who came to St. Louis to ask for the release of Black Hawk, a chief who had been imprisoned by the U.S. government following an uprising on the Illinois frontier in 1832. Maximilian may in fact have mis-interpreted the name Massika as "Turtle"; it is more likely that he was called "Bear", both words being very similar in the native tongue. The marks on the man's face resemble "Bear Claw" marks worn by members of the bear clan.
At the time, men of the Saki or Sac tribe commonly shaved their heads except for a short, lateral ridge along the crown and a long, thin braid down the back, to which they often attached an artificial crest of stiffened deer hair. Both the hairstyle and the crest were referred to as a "roach," and the method of dressing the hair as "roaching." Originating among the Iroquois and Algonkian people of the eastern United States and Canada, this practice also was popular with several tribes in the trans-Mississippi West.
The original portrait of Massika at Joslyn does not show him with the large crest decorated with a coup feather depicted in the print. In both versions, however, he wears the same shell-beaded earrings and vermilion face paint. Wakusasse or Wakasasse, the Mesquake or Fox man at right, also wears an artificial roach and bold face paint, probably put on for the occasion of having his portrait painted, as well as a heavy necklace of shell beads and shell or metal drop-earrings. An inscription on the Joslyn watercolor indicates that the final "e" in his name was to be pronounced.
In a later reference to the aquatint, Maximilian said that another man was to have been featured with Massika in the European atlas, His portrait could not be reproduced to Bodmer's satisfaction, and that of Wakasasse was used, instead.
Vol. 1 of Maximilian's journal features several Sac and Fox head studies grouped together on one page of the manuscript at Joslyn. Another drawing by Maximilian shows an Algonkian man wearing a hair-roach similar to the above.
Tableau 7 of the atlas shows additional examples of this hairstyle. Tableau 48 reproduces a Fox hair-roach collected by Maximilian.
Text by David Hunt, Director, Stark Museum, Orange, Texas, USA