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Dance to the Medicine Bag of the Brave

1835-1837 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 19 5/8 x 27 5/8 in. (49.7 x 70.1 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.444 Not currently on view

Luce Center Label

“This is a custom well worth recording, for the beautiful moral which is contained in it. In this plate is represented a party of Sac warriors who have returned victorious from battle, with scalps they have taken from their enemies, but having lost one of their party, they appear and dance in front of his wigwam, fifteen days in succession, about an hour on each day, when the widow hangs his medicine-bag on a green bush which she erects before her door, under which she sits and cries, whilst the warriors dance and brandish the scalps they have taken, and at the same time recount the deeds of bravery of their deceased comrade in arms, whilst they are throwing presents to the widow to heal her grief and afford her the means of a living.” George Catlin based this image on sketches he made at a Sac and Fox village in 1835. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 56, 1841; reprint 1973)


Ceremony - dance

Ceremony - Indian

Ethnic - Indian - Sauk and Fox

Ethnic - Indian - Sauk and Fox

Figure group - male



paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added