George Catlin’s Máh-to-tóh-pa, Four Bears, Second Chief, in Full Dress

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A painting of a man

George Catlin, Máh-to-tóh-pa, Four Bears, Second Chief, in Full Dress, 1832, oil on canvas, 29 x 24 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison Jr., 1985.66.128, Photo by Gene Young.

About this Artwork

Mandan chief Mató-Tópe, also called Four Bears, determined who had access to his village and the ceremonies and rites of the Mandan. As was the custom, Catlin arrived bearing gifts to exchange for the opportunity to meet him and to negotiate painting his portrait. Mató-Tópe chose how he intended to be portrayed, his stance and his regalia asserting his authority. He granted Catlin extensive access to the community and permitted the artist to witness their sacred O-Kee-Pa ceremony.