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Máh-to-tóh-pa, Four Bears, Second Chief in Mourning

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. 1985.66.131 Not currently on view


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George Catlin described Four Bears as being “in undress, being in mourning, with a few locks of hair cut off, his hair put up in plaits or slabs, with glue and red paint, a custom of the tribe. The scars on his breast, arms, and legs show that he has several times in his life submitted to the propitiatory tortures represented in four paintings.” Four Bears had earned the right to wear his horned headdress and his fabled shirt, but even in “undress” he was a hero of the highest order, straight out of the Roman Republic: “His breasts have been bared and scarred in defence of his country, and his brows crowned with honours that elevate him conspicuous above all of his nation.” Four Bears also bears scars from his successful completion of the O-kee-pa, an important Mandan ritual performed annually to initiate the most promising young men of the tribe. Catlin painted this portrait at a Mandan village in 1832. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 21, 1841, reprint 1973, and 1848 Catalogue, Catlin’s Indian Gallery, SAAM online exhibition)

Keywords

Ethnic - Indian - Mandan

Portrait male - Four Bears

State of being - emotion - sorrow

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added