Tab 08 - Wahk-ta-ge-li, a Sioux Warrior

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 Z. Prevost
Printed by Bougeard


Karl Bodmer painted the original of this portrait of Yankton Sioux chief Wahktageli, or "Gallant Warrior" -- called "Big Soldier" by the Missouri traders-- at the Sioux agency at Fort Lookout below Fort Pierre, in what is now the state of South Dakota, during the latter part of May, 1833. Reportedly a patient sitter, he posed for Bodmer over a two-day period, pausing only occasionally to smoke the pipe-tomahawk pictured in his left hand.

Standing six and a half feet tall, the subject was approximately sixty years old at the time. He had painted his face with vermilion, for the occasion, and wore long strings of blue glass beads in his ears. His buffalo-hide robe, worn with the fur side next to his body, had been tanned to an amazing whiteness on the reverse. His moccasins, leggings, and shirt were decorated with strips of dyed porcupine quills. The long fringe on the upper sleeve of his shirt was said to have been made of human hair taken from the head of a slain Mandan.

The feathers bound to the head by strips of red felt in this portrait are "coup" feathers representing enemies killed in battle. The silver peace medal suspended from his neck, partially hidden by the front flap of the shirt, indicates Wahktageli's important status as a chief. Distributed by U. S. government representatives as tokens of friendship and allegiance, such medals were highly prized by their recipients and often were buried with them when they died.

As featured in the atlas, the aquatint faithfully reproduces the watercolor portrait of Wahktageli owned by Joslyn Art Museum. Other Sioux subjects are represented in this series by Vignette XXX and Tableaux 9, 11, and 12. The woman identified as a Sioux in the title to Tableau 9, however, probably was a member of the Crow nation who had been adopted by the Sioux or had married into the tribe.

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

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Original Print

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