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Peh-tó-pe-kiss, Eagle's Ribs, a Piegan Chief

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 29 x 24 in. (73.7 x 60.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.152 Not currently on view


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“This man is one of the extraordinary men of the Blackfoot tribe; though not a chief, he stands here in the Fort, and deliberately boasts of eight scalps, which he says he has taken from the heads of trappers and traders with his own hand. His dress is really superb, almost literally covered with scalp-locks, of savage and civil. I have painted him at full length, with a head-dress made entirely of ermine skins and horns of the buffalo. This custom of wearing horns beautifully polished and surmounting the head-dress, is a very curious one, being worn only by the bravest of the brave; by the most extraordinary men in the nation . . . When he stood for his picture, he also held a lance and two ‘medicine-bags’ in his hand.” This portrait, painted at Fort Union, bears a certificate signed by the Indian agent John Sanford. George Catlin called upon fur traders, army officials, and government Indian agents to certify the accuracy of his pictures, an important testimonial for the artist who insisted that the value of his work lay in its authenticity. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 5, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Ethnic - Indian - Blackfoot

Ethnic - Indian - Piegan

Portrait male - Buffalo's Child - full length

Portrait male - Eagle's Ribs

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added