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Os-ce-o-lá, The Black Drink, a Warrior of Great Distinction

1838 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 30 7/8 x 25 7/8 in. (78.4 x 65.6 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.301 Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, on view

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George Catlin painted Seminole warrior Osceola at Fort Moultrie, near Charleston, South Carolina, in January 1838. The warrior, Catlin wrote, was “commonly called Powell . . .[he] is generally supposed to be a half-breed, the son [grandson] of a white man . . . and a Creek woman . . . I have painted him precisely in the costume, in which he stood for his picture, even to a string and a trinket. He wore three ostrich feathers in his head, and a turban made of a vari-coloured cotton shawl---and his dress was chiefly of calicos, with a handsome bead sash or belt around his waist, and his rifle in his hand. This young man is, no doubt, an extraordinary character, as he has been for some years reputed, and doubtless looked upon by the Seminoles as the master spirit and leader of the tribe, although he is not a chief . . . In stature he is about at mediocrity, with an elastic and graceful movement; in his face he is good looking, with rather an effeminate smile; but of so peculiar a character, that the world may be ransacked over without finding another just like it. In his manners, and all his movements in company, he is polite and gentlemanly, though all his conversation is entirely in his own tongue; and his general appearance and actions, those of a full-blooded and wild Indian.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 57, 1841; reprint 1973)


Ethnic - Indian - Seminole

Portrait male - Black Drink

Portrait male - Osceola


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added