Parent Object
Indians Testing Their Bows
Explore Object
Creative Commons License

Indians Testing Their Bows

Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description Extracts from Miller’s original text are included below for reference, as they served as the original context for these watercolors, shaping how they were viewed. His words reveal the racist and sexist viewpoints of 19th-century travelers and colonizers of the western part of what is today the United States. "While at 'Rendezvous' we were summoned at intervals to see the Indians perform their dances, engage in ball play, and test their bows and skill in shooting at a mark, the subject of our present sketch. In order to give free action, they throw off their robe, retaining a cloth around thier hips, which they ornament in various ways with feathers &c.; sometimes a bull's tail is secured to the belt as if they thought nature had omitted this appendage;- and it is possible that Lord Monboddo founded his wild theory that people existed who had tails from some such savage trick as this. The Lexicographer (Dr. Johnson) attacked the philosopher with great fury and put him to rout;- but not before the latter had made some converts. To the left in the sketch is seated an arrow maker, busily engaged in preparing and pointeing shfts, made usually from the Cotton-wood tree, on account of its lightness, and being easily worked;- great care is taken in having the arrow well balanced, straight, and uniform thoughout;- as on this depends the directness of its flight and aim." A.J. Miller, extracted from "The West of Alfred Jacob Miller" (1837). In July 1858 William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at twelve dollars apiece from Baltimore born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text, and were delivered in installments over the next twenty-one months and ultimately were bound in three albums. Transcriptions of field-sketches drawn during the 1837 expedition that Miller had undertaken to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (in what is now western Wyoming), these watercolors are a unique record of the closing years of the western fur trade.
Date Description Narrative
Treatmentmounted; re-housed; cleaned
2/13/1980Loan Considerationexamined for loan
8/28/1992Treatmentmounted; re-housed
11/01/1993Loan Considerationexamined for loan
4/29/1997Loan Considerationexamined for loan
  • Alfred Jacob Miller. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1971.
  • Opening the Way West. Katonah Gallery, Katonah. 1981.
  • Alfred Jacob Miller: Maryland and the West. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Washington College, Chestertown; Frostburg State University, Frostburg; Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Rockville. 1988.
  • The American Artist as Painter and Draftsman. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2001.
Provenance William T. Walters, Baltimore, 1858-1860, by commission; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894, by inheritance; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1858-1860

Download Image Add to Collection Creative Commons License

watercolor on paper
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
H: 9 3/16 x W: 13 1/8 in. (23.4 x 33.3 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


    Thumbnail: Indians Testing Their Bows
    Zoom Out Zoom In Back to Details  
    Full Size: Indians Testing Their Bows