Paris, Coblenz, London. [1839-1842]. Handcolored aquatint engraving by Desmadryl after Bodmer. Sheet size: 17 7/16 x 23 1/4 inches. Very good. Item #WRCAM38874
An outstanding example of his careful rendering of every detail of the everyday life of the Mandan Tribe. As well as being a beautifully composed view of the interior of this Mandan lodge, this is one of the most ethnographically important of all of Bodmer's images.
The lodge was the home of Dipäuch, a respected elder of the Tribe, who gave Prince Maximilian much information about the history and beliefs of his people. The sketch was made over a period of several months at Mih- Tutta-Hand-Kusch from early December 1833 to mid-April 1834. This image has been much reproduced since, as perhaps the most accurate extant depiction, taken from life, of the domestic arrangements of the Plains Indians.
Bodmer's images show great versatility and technical virtuosity, and give us a uniquely accomplished and detailed picture of a previously little understood (and soon to vanish) way of life. Swiss-born Bodmer was engaged by Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867) specifically to provide a record of his travels in North America, principally among the Plains Indians. In the company of David Dreidoppel (Prince Maximilian's servant and hunting companion), their travels in North America were to last from 1832 to 1834. Well armed with information and advice, the party finally left St. Louis, on the most important stage of their travels, aboard the steamer Yellow Stone on April 10, 1833. They proceeded up the treacherous Missouri River along the line of forts established by the American Fur Company. At Bellevue they encountered their first Indians, then went on to make contact with the Sioux tribe, learning of and recording their little-known ceremonial dances and powerful pride and dignity. Transferring from the Yellow Stone to another steamer, Assiniboin, they continued to Fort Clark, where they visited the Mandan, Mintari, and Crow tribes, then the Assiniboins at Fort Union, the main base of the American Fur Company. On a necessarily much smaller vessel they journeyed through the extraordinary geological scenery of that section of the Missouri to Fort Mackenzie in Montana, establishing a cautious friendship with the fearsome Blackfeet. From there, the westernmost point reached, it was considered too dangerous to continue, and the return journey downstream began. The winter brought its own difficulties and discomforts, but Bodmer was still able to execute numerous studies of villages, dances, and especially the people, who were often both intrigued and delighted by his work. The portraits are particularly notable for their capturing of individual personalities, as well as forming a primary account of what were to become virtually lost cultures. For the Maximilian portfolio: GRAFF 4648. HOWES M443a. PILLING, PROOF-SHEETS 2521. SABIN 47014. WAGNER-CAMP 76:1.