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Man's Shirt, 1830s–40s
hide, rabbit skin, porcupine quills, sinew, beads, human hair, pigment
Lent by the Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., Catalogue no. 386,505

Occasionally, Catlin acquired his sitters' clothing to exhibit in the Indian Gallery as proof of the accuracy of his art. His greatest prize was a shirt given to him by the Mandan chief Four Bears, "with the history of his battles emblazoned on it." The shirt seen here resembles the one worn by Four Bears in the portrait [opposite], but it was probably fabricated by Catlin, not the Mandan chief. The artist may have raided his collection for a period skin and the bands of Cree quillwork sewn on the shoulders; he also probably painted the crude pictographs himself. Whether (and how) Catlin lost Four Bears's shirt is unknown, but he seems to have felt that he needed to include a substitute in his exhibitions.


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