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Shin-ga-wás-sa, Handsome Bird

1834 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. 1985.66.44 Not currently on view

Luce Center Label

George Catlin described Handsome Bird, a member of the Osage/Wa-zha-zhe I-e tribe, as a “splendid-looking fellow, six feet eight inches high; with war-club and quiver.” In a different account about manners, customs and conditions, the artist described the war club as “another civilized refinement, with a blade of steel, of eight or ten inches in length, and set in a club, studded around and ornamented with some hundreds of brass nails.” Catlin painted this work at Fort Gibson (in present-day Oklahoma) in 1834. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 29, 1841, reprint 1973, and 1848 Catalogue, Catlin’s Indian Gallery, SAAM online exhibition)


Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Ethnic - Indian - Osage

Object - weapon - bow and arrow

Object - weapon - club

Portrait male - Handsome Bird - full length


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added