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Osage Scalp Dance

1845 John Mix Stanley Born: Canandaigua, New York 1814 Died: Detroit, Michigan 1872 oil on canvas 40 3/4 x 60 1/2 in. (103.5 x 153.6 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Misses Henry 1985.66.248,930 Not currently on view


Gallery Label

Melodramatic tales of scalping were popular in Europe and the United States throughout the nineteenth century. John Mix Stanley’s operatic scene shows a villain wielding a war club over a desperate woman's head. A hero who wears a presidential peace medal blocks the club with his spear. By the time Stanley painted this canvas, the government had already begun to subdue native peoples by relocating tribes and fostering warfare among them. This "divide and conquer" policy, together with thrilling narratives of white captives carried off to slavery, helped ease the consciences of European Americans making their way across the continent. Stanley based this fictional image on sketches he made while traveling through the frontier territories in 1842 and 1843.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Ceremony - dance - Scalp Dance

Ethnic - Indian - Osage

Figure group

State of being - evil - danger

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About John Mix Stanley

Born: Canandaigua, New York 1814 Died: Detroit, Michigan 1872

More works in the collection by
John Mix Stanley