Mah-tó-he-ha, Old Bear, a Medicine Man

Media - 1985.66.129 - SAAM-1985.66.129_1 - 8498
Copied George Catlin, Mah-tó-he-ha, Old Bear, a Medicine Man, 1832, oil on canvas, 2924 in. (73.760.9 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.129
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Artwork Details

Mah-tó-he-ha, Old Bear, a Medicine Man
2924 in. (73.760.9 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Portrait
  • Dress — Indian dress
  • Indian — Mandan
  • Portrait male — Old Bear — full length
Object Number

Artwork Description

At twelve o'clock, “having used the whole of the fore-part of the day at his toilette,” George Catlin wrote, Old Bear arrived at the artist’s lodge “bedaubed and streaked with paints of various colours, with bear's grease and charcoal, with medicine-pipes in his hands and foxes tails attached to his heels [and] with a train of his own profession, who seated themselves around him . . . He took his position in the middle of the room, waving his eagle calumets in each hand, and singing his medicine-song . . . looking me full in the face until I completed his picture, which I painted at full length.” The artist painted Old Bear at a Mandan village in 1832. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 15, 1841; reprint 1973)