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Beggar's Dance, Mouth of Teton River

1835-1837 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 19 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (49.5 x 70.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.443 Not currently on view


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“This spirited dance was given, not by a set of beggars . . . but by the first and most independent young men in the tribe, beautifully dressed, (i.e., not dressed at all, except with their breech clouts or kelts, made of eagles' and ravens' quills) with their lances, and pipes, and rattles in their hands, and a medicine-man beating the drum, and joining in the song at the highest key of his voice. In this dance every one sings as loud as he can halloo; uniting his voice with the others, in an appeal to the Great Spirit, to open the hearts of the bystanders to give to the poor, and not to themselves; assuring them that the Great Spirit will be kind to those who are kind to the helpless and poor.” George Catlin painted this image based on sketches he made near Fort Pierre in 1832. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 30, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Ceremony - dance - Beggar's Dance

Ceremony - Indian

Ethnic - Indian - Dakota

Figure group - male

Landscape - river - Teton River

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added