George Catlin’s Shon-ta-yi-ga, Little Wolf, a Famous Warrior

Meet the Artists of Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture

A portrait of a man

George Catlin, Shon-ta-yi-ga, Little Wolf, a Famous Warrior, 1844–45, oil on canvas, 29 x 24 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison Jr., 1985.66.521, Photo by Gene Young.

About this Artwork

Shon-ta-yi-ga wears two medals—a large silver medal awarded him by the Tyler administration for his bravery in defending his tribe and a gold medal from the French king. His ears are repeatedly pierced and threaded with wampum from top to bottom, adding to the density of ornament that would have moved and made noise with his every step. King Louis-Philippe admired this portrait enough to ask Catlin to make a copy of it as one of the fifteen paintings he commissioned from the artist.