Dance to the Berdash

Media - 1985.66.442 - SAAM-1985.66.442_1 - 81547
Copied George Catlin, Dance to the Berdash, 1835-1837, oil on canvas, 19 1227 12 in. (49.670.0 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.442
Free to use

Artwork Details

Dance to the Berdash
Not on view
19 1227 12 in. (49.670.0 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Group
  • Figure group — male
  • Western
  • Ceremony — dance
  • Ceremony — Indian
  • Indian — Sauk and Fox
Object Number

Artwork Description

Dance to the Berdashe is a very funny and amusing scene, which happens once a year or oftener, as they choose, when a feast is given to the ‘Berdashe,’ as he is called in French . . . who is a man dressed in woman's clothes, as he is known to be all his life, and for extraordinary privileges which he is known to possess, he is driven to the most servile and degrading duties, which he is not allowed to escape; and he being the only one of the tribe submitting to this disgraceful degradation, is looked upon as medicine and sacred, and a feast is given to him annually.” George Catlin first sketched the scene at a Sac and Fox village in 1835. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 56, 1841; reprint 1973)