Smoking the Shield

  • George Catlin, Smoking the Shield, 1837-1839, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.477

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“The Sioux shield [is] made of the skin of the buffalo's neck, hardened with the glue extracted from the hoofs and joints of the same animal . . . This skin is at first, twice as large as the size of the required shield; but having got his particular and best friends (who are invited on the occasion) into a ring, to dance and sing around it, and solicit the Great Spirit to instil into it the power to protect him harmless against his enemies, [the young man] spreads over it the glue, which is rubbed and dried in, as the skin is heated; and a second busily drives other and other pegs, inside of those in the gound, as they are gradually giving way and being pulled up by the contraction of the skin. By this curious process, which is most dexterously done, the skin is kept tight whilst it contracts to one-half of its size, taking up the glue and increasing in thickness until it is rendered as thick and hard as required.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 30, 1841; reprint 1973)

Title
Smoking the Shield
Artist
Date
1837-1839
On View
Not on view.
Dimensions
18 3/4 x 26 1/4 in. (47.5 x 66.6 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
Classifications
Keywords
  • Western
  • Ethnic – Indian – Dakota
  • Ethnic – Indian – Sioux
  • Ceremony – Indian – Smoking the Shield
  • Figure group – male and female
Object Number
1985.66.477
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI