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Sha-kó-ka, Mint, a Pretty Girl

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. 1985.66.134 Not currently on view


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“A very pretty and modest girl,” George Catlin wrote, “twelve years of age, with grey hair! peculiar to the Mandans . . . There are very many, of both sexes, and of every age, from infancy to manhood and old age, with hair of a bright silvery grey; and in some instances almost perfectly white. This singular and eccentric appearance is much oftener seen among the women than it is with the men; for many of the latter who have it, seem ashamed of it, and artfully conceal it, by filling their hair with glue and black and red earth. The women, on the other hand, seem proud of it, and display it often in an almost incredible profusion, which spreads over their shoulders and falls as low as the knee. I have ascertained, on a careful enquiry, that about one in ten or twelve of the whole tribe are what the French call ‘cheveux gris,’ or greyhairs; and that this strange and unaccountable phenomenon is not the result of disease or habit; but that it is unquestionably a hereditary character which runs in families, and indicates no inequality in disposition or intellect. And by passing this hair through my hands, as I often have, I have found it uniformly to be as coarse and harsh as a horse’s mane; differing materially from the hair of other colours, which amongst the Mandans, is generally as fine and as soft as silk.” Catlin painted Sha-kó-ka at a Mandan village in 1832. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 13, 1841, reprint 1973, and 1848 Catalogue, Catlin’s Indian Gallery, SAAM online exhibition)

Keywords

Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Ethnic - Indian - Mandan

Portrait female - Mint

Portrait female - Mint - bust

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added