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
The portraits reproduced in this aquatint were painted by Bodmer at Fort McKenzie in the late summer of 1833. Pictured at left is Stomick-Sosack, or "Bull's Hide" -- or "Buffalo Bull's Back Fat" according to George Catlin, who also painted a portrait of this Blood or Blackfeet chief at Fort Union in 1832. In Bodmer's portrait, he wears a shirt of red cloth and painted hide decorated with long strands of dyed human or horse hair. A peace medal hangs from a beaded cord around his neck. Prince Maximilian observed that this medal bore the likeness of U. S. President Thomas Jefferson on the reverse of the side shown here.
The middle figure represents Ninoch-Kiaiu, "Chief of the Bears," a Piegan Blackfeet chief once known as Ketsepenn-nika, or "Spotted Elk," who had changed his name to commemorate success in an expedition against the Flathead or Salish to the north. Reputedly an arrogant man, he was not popular with his fellows or the officials at Fort Mc Kenzie. Bodmer showed him very simply attired in a trade blanket, in mourning for a nephew who had been killed by a rival faction of Bloods, on whom Ninoch-Kiaiu threatened indiscriminate revenge.
At right is Homach-Koachkum, a Kutenai man who had married a Piegan Blackfeet woman and settled among her people. Having become a respected tribal leader, he was reportedly a friendly man with whom Prince Maximilian freely discussed Kutenai language and customs. Bodmer's portrait, painted in mid-August, 1833, shows him wearing a relatively plain, fringed shirt, a buffalo-hide robe, and a braided choker of sweet grass, a plant emitting a pleasant scent resembling vanilla.
Bodmer also painted a portrait of Homach-Koachkum's son which now is in the Maximilian-Bodmer collection at Joslyn, but was not featured in the atlas.
See Tableaux 33 and 45 for other portraits painted at Fort McKenzie in 1833.
Text by David Hunt, Director, Stark Museum, Orange, Texas, USA