Alexander Philipp Maximilian (Prinz of Wied-Neuwid)
REISE IN DAS INNERE NORD-AMERICA IN DEN JAHREN 1832 BIS 1834; VON MAXIMILIAN PRINZ ZU WIED. Coblenz, J. Hoelscher, 1839-41.

Bison-Dance of the Mandan Indians in front of their Medicine Lodge in Mih-Tutta-Hankush, Karl Bodmer
Bison-Dance of the Mandan Indians in front of their
Medicine Lodge in Mih-Tutta-Hankush
Karl Bodmer
[xffE165 W64 atlas v.2 Tab. 18]

Karl Bodmer was an unlikely artist of American Indians. Born in Riesbach, Tiefenbrunnen, near Zurich, Switzerland, Bodmer furthered his study of art in Paris. Prince Maximilian, a German scientist, met Bodmer when the young artist sketched his way across Germany. Maximilian hired Bodmer to accompany him to North America in order to study the Plains Indians.

This exquisite image offers a wonderful glimpse of a traditional Indian dance.

Indians are seen wearing the skin of the upper part of the head of the buffalo, that is, the animal's mane with the horns, on their heads. Two Indians, the bravest of warriors, wear an imitation of a buffalo head, with holes for the eyes.

A woman circulates around the dancers with a dish of water to offer refreshment to only the bravest Indians, those who wear the entire head. Her dress on this occasion includes a robe of bighorn leather and vermilion face colorings.

The men wear a piece of red cloth fastened behind them, with a figure representing a buffalo's tail. The Indians with the buffalo heads are always found on the outside edge of the group, and imitate the sounds and gestures of the buffalo.

Mih-Tutta-Hankush was the main Mandan village, located near Fort Clark, about forty-five miles north of Bismarck, North Dakota. At Bodmer's arrival it consisted of sixty-five large timber and sod huts, enclosed in a crude wooden fence. The village, located on a high promontory, overlooked the west bank of the Missouri River. The Mandans maintained a winter village, located downstream, also on the west bank of the river.

Bodmer prepared an atlas of aquatints that included the peoples and lands encountered during his North American adventure. Bodmer returned to Paris and supervised the production of these aquatints for Maximilian's book. Eighty-one hand colored prints illustrate this book, produced in German, French, and English editions from 1839 to 1843.

Karl Bodmer became a highly respected artist, although he turned away from North American subjects upon his return to Europe. Bodmer's commission on this work was cancelled, however, upon the discovery that he had employed Jean Francois Millet, then a young artist, to perform much of the work for him, including the figures of American Indians. Bodmer died on October 30, 1893, unaware of the significance of his work on Plains Indians.

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