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Bird's-eye View of the Mandan Village, 1800 Miles above St. Louis

1837-1839 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 24 1/8 x 29 in. (61.2 x 73.6 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.502 Not currently on view

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“I have this morning, perched myself upon the top of one of the earth-covered lodges . . . and having the whole village beneath and about me, with its sachems---its warriors---its dogs---and its horses in motion---its medicines (or mysteries) and scalp-poles waving over my head---its piquets---its green fields and prairies, and river in full view, with the din and bustle of the thrilling panorama that is about me. I shall be able, I hope, to give some sketches more to the life than I could have done from any effort of recollection . . . The groups of lodges around me present a very curious and pleasing appearance, resembling in shape (more nearly than anything else I can compare them to) so many potash-kettles inverted. On the tops of these are to be seen groups standing and reclining, whose wild and picturesque appearance it would be difficult to describe. Stern warriors, like statues, standing in dignified groups, wrapped in their painted robes, with their heads decked and plumed with quills of the war-eagle.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 12, 1841; reprint 1973)

Research Notes

Read research notes for Bird's-eye View of the Mandan Village, 1800 Miles above St. Louis. (pdf)


Architecture Exterior - domestic - hut

Ethnic - Indian - Mandan

Figure group

Landscape - bird's eye view

Landscape - United States


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added