Vig XIV - Offering of the Mandan Indians

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 Himely and Weber (Joslyn plate)
Printed by Bougeard;

Prince Maximilian and Karl Bodmer paid only a brief visit to the Mandan village near Fort Clark on their voyage up the Missouri in the summer of 1833, although they were destined to spend several months among the Mandan the following winter, on their return voyage downriver. Near the burial ground on the prairie behind the village, Bodmer observed several "skull shrines," as Maximilian referred to them in his journal, which were visited by the Mandan during periods of fasting or prayer.

Bodmer's watercolor view of such a shrine, similar to one painted the year before at this same place by George Catlin, was later reproduced in the atlas of aquatints.

At least two distinct prints of this subject, by engravers Himely and Weber, were issued in Europe. Himely's version, developed almost entirely in aquatint, included a line of figures on horseback in the middle and far right background which are only suggested in pencil in the watercolor of this scene in Joslyn's collection.

Weber added a number of carrion birds to the scene which were not featured in Himely's print or in the Joslyn watercolor. He did not include the riders in the background. This same version appears initially to have shown a small kneeling figure in the foreground which subsequently was obliterated, and is faintly discernible against the mass of rocks, at left, in some examples of this print.

Two knives stuck in the ground with their handles exposed, positioned in front of the skull circle in either printed version, are shown behind the circle in the Joslyn watercolor.

Tableau 25 describes another Mandan shrine painted by Bodmer on his return to Fort Clark in the fall of 1833. 

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