Karl Bodmer (1809-93) “Hundetanzes” Moennitarri Warrior Hand coloured folio 1840 - Ethnology
“Moennitarri-Krieger im Anzüge des Hundetanzes - Guerrier Moennitarri costume pour la danse du Chien”
Bodmer’s portrait of Mato-Tope. From H.R. Schinz’s Naturgeschichte und Abbildungen des Menschen. Zurich: Honeggerschen Lithographischen Anstalt, 1840.
37.3 x 27.5 cm. Hand coloured stone lithograph.
From as early as 1835 (before the official version of Bodmer’s prints had been issued) until 1845, H.R. Schinz published a natural history, with a focus on humans of different races, which included as illustrations very fine lithographs taken from some of the Bodmer prints. Of the first images after Bodmer that appeared in Schinz’s volume, Peter Bolz wrote: “these portraits were the first published copies of pictures of American Indians from Bodmer’s travels in North America. They were issued about a year after his return to Europe and approximately four years before Prince Maximilian started publishing his extravagant travel journal in 1839. This is one of the reasons why the prints are of special significant: they founded the artist’s reputation as the ‘Indian Bodmer.'” (From “Karl Bodmer, Heinrich Rudolf Schinz and the Changing Image of the American Indian in Europe.” In Karl Bodmer. A Swiss Artist in America 1809-1893. 2009.).
One of the most iconic images to emerge from the picturing of the American West, and certainly Bodmer's most famous, this highly-charged portrait of Péhriska-Rúhpa ("Two Ravens") presents the warrior and chief of the Hidatsa in way that encapsulates the vanished era of the Plains Indian. Péhriska-Rúhpa dances in his regalia as a principal leader of the Dog Society of his village. The Dog Society was one of seven such societies among the men of the Mandan and Hidatsa Tribes. They were one of the main tenets by which Hidatsa society lived. As an individual progressed through life, it was necessary for him to purchase his entry into successive societies, starting with "the foolish dogs" at about ten to fifteen years of age and graduating to the society of the black-tailed deer for men over fifty. The Dog Society was the fourth of these progressions. Each society had a set number of members, so that an individual from a lower society could only buy entry to the higher society if there was a member of that society who was himself ready to move to the society above his. They all had individual rules, rituals, dances and regalia. All this information was carefully recorded by Prince Maximilian during the travellers' winter stop-over at Fort Clark in 1833-1834. This portrait, Bodmer's masterpiece, was painted in March 1834 towards the end of this stay.