[New York. ca. 1840]. Watercolor and ink, 14 3/4 x 10 1/4 inches, matted. Minor foxing. Very good. Item #WRCAM21077
This portrait of the famous chief, Mah-to-toh-pa, was executed by New York artist Nicolino Calyo, based upon the work of George Catlin. Calyo was born in Italy and came to America in the 1830s. He worked as a miniaturist, portrait painter, and panorama artist, most actively from the mid-1830s to the mid-1850s. He is best known for his pen and watercolor images of New York street vendors, tradesmen, and other types of workers, which he generally sold in portfolios (there is an extensive collection of these in the New-York Historical Society). This Indian portrait is in the same style and format as the watercolors of workers. Calyo had an eye for the topical, often based on other sources, such as his panorama of the Mexican War which he exhibited widely in the early 1850s. In the case of this image, Calyo clearly based his portrait on the well-known George Catlin painting of the famous chief, Mah-to-toh-pa of the Mandans. Calyo probably saw the original oil portrait which Catlin exhibited with his Indian Gallery in New York in 1838-39, and this is the likely source for this watercolor. It is also possible that Calyo used the published version of this contained in Catlin's LETTERS AND NOTES..., published in 1841. In either case, Calyo clearly based his charming watercolor on Catlin. A unique Indian portrait by a popular, rather primitive artist, reflecting both public interest in western Indians and the influence of George Catlin. GROCE & WALLACE, p.104.