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Wi-jún-jon, Pigeon's Egg Head (The Light), a Distinguished Young Warrior

1831 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. 1985.66.179 Not currently on view


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George Catlin first met Wi-jún-jon (also called the Light) in St. Louis in December 1831, when the Assiniboine warrior was en route to Washington to meet President Andrew Jackson and tour the city. Catlin recalled that the warrior appeared for his portrait sitting “plumed and tinted . . . [and] dressed in his native costume, which was classic and exceedingly beautiful”---attributes nicely captured in this finished portrait. Wi-jún-jon returned home to the northern Plains eighteen months later a decidedly different man---dressed apparently in a “general’s” uniform and sharing what to his fellow tribesmen were astonishing accounts of the white man’s cities. They eventually rejected his stories as “ingenious fabrication of novelty and wonder,” and his persistence in telling such “lies” eventually led to his murder. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 55, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Ethnic - Indian - Assiniboin

Portrait male - Pigeon's Egg Head

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added