Tab 19 - The Interior of the Hut of a Mandan 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 Desmadryl
Printed by Bougeard


The houses of the village-dwelling tribes on the upper Missouri usually were circular in shape, the larger houses averaging about thirty feet in diameter. Their design incorporated four central wooden pillars and an adjoining framework of posts and beams supporting numerous rafters and wall poles. Over these was laid a matting of willow and grass and an outer, insulating layer of earth.

A hole in the roof admitted some light and otherwise vented the smoke from a central firepit in the floor. An exterior, moveable screen shielded the vent from wind and rain. The entrance to the interior was protected from the weather by a covered passageway.

While staying at Fort Clark over the winter of 1833-4, Karl Bodmer visited the dwelling of an old and respected Mandan named Dipauch and later produced a watercolor view of its interior based on sketches he made over a period of several months. This was later published in the European atlas to become one of Bodmer's best known subjects, highly valued for its ethnological detail.

Clearly shown is the construction of the lodge with its central pillars and roof beams. At right, Bodmer included the shields, lances, and medicine symbols of the old warrior occupant. Various utensils and containers for everyday use are to be seen scattered about the floor or hanging from pegs and posts. Dimly outlined against the back wall is the family bed. Sharing the space are the family horses and dogs.

Except for the figures of the horses, which are only pencilled in, the watercolor at Joslyn is reproduced almost exactly in the later print.

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

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Original Print

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