Self-torture in a Sioux Religious Ceremony

  • George Catlin, Self-torture in a Sioux Religious Ceremony, 1835-1837, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.460

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George Catlin painted several images of Indian rituals involving self-torture, scenes that shocked viewers when he exhibited his Indian Gallery in London. Critics accused the artist of making up such horrendous scenes as this one of a man hanging from a pole with splints and skewers running through his flesh. Catlin insisted that he indeed witnessed this event, and reported that the man had “blood trickling down over his body, which was covered with white and yellow clay . . . amidst a great crowd who were looking on, sympathizing with and encouraging him . . .” Catlin went on to explain that the man was “to stand and look at the sun, from its rising in the morning ‘till its setting at night.” If the man survived this ritual, he was cut down from the ropes and given a “liberal donation of presents.” (Truettner, The Natural Man Observed, 1979)

Title
Self-torture in a Sioux Religious Ceremony
Artist
Date
1835-1837
On View
Not on view.
Dimensions
19 5/8 x 27 1/4 in. (49.7 x 69.2 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
Classifications
Keywords
  • Figure group – male
  • Western
  • Ethnic – Indian – Sioux
  • State of being – evil – torture
  • Ceremony – Indian
  • Ceremony – religion
Object Number
1985.66.460
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI