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George Catlin
Wi-jún-jon, Pigeon's Egg Head (The Light), a Distinguished Young Warrior, 1831
Assiniboine/Nakoda
oil
29 x 24 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.


Wi-jun-jon [The Light] … appeared as sullen as death in my painting-room—with eyes fixed like those of a statue, upon me, though his pride had plumed and tinted him in all the freshness and brilliancy of an Indian's toilet. In his nature's uncowering pride he stood a perfect model; but superstition had hung a lingering curve upon his lip, and pride had stiffened it into contempt.…

“He was dressed in his native costume, which was classic and exceedingly beautiful; his leggings and shirt were of the mountain-goat skin, richly garnished with quills of the porcupine, and fringed with locks of scalps, taken from his enemies' heads. Over these floated his long hair in plaits, that fell nearly to the ground” (Letters and Notes, vol. 1, pp. 50–57, pl. 28; vol. 2, p. 196).

See number 474 for additional biographical information.

Painted in St. Louis in the fall of 1831, when The Light was enroute to Washington. Donaldson's date is incorrect. Ewers (1956) comments on the accuracy with which Catlin reproduced the three-row quillwork design on the subject's sleeve. The rendering of detail does seem more certain in this portrait than in the 1830 series, and the firm modeling of the subject's head marks a progression toward the style of Upper Missouri portraits. The Light was painted by Charles Bird King in Washington (see Parke-Bernet catalogue), and he appears again, full length, in cartoon 75, with his wife and children.



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