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Snake Indians - Testing Bows
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Snake Indians - Testing Bows

Description Conservation Provenance Inscription Credit
Description Extracts from Alfred Jacob Miller’s original text, which accompanied his images of Native Americans, are included below for reference. These words, which shaped how Miller’s contemporaries viewed the watercolors, reveal the racism and sexism embedded in 19th-century exploration and colonization of the western part of what is today the United States. "While Indians are resting in camp, one of their amusements (if their evil star is not in the ascendant) is a trial of skill with the Elk-horn bow. Of course, a wager is laid in order to give zest to the trial and earnestness to the matter on hand. The stakes are of a multitudinous character,- Pleagh of beaver, against Couteau de chasse,- heads agains clother,- powder against tobacco,- &c. In the absense of any other stake, he will bet his own daughter. They are careful to select a calm day, and at a distance of 30 or 40 yards strike within the sircumference of a wuarter of a dollar. The arrow is tipped with iron, and feathering remarkablye for its neatness, giving a poise true and equal, this is essential to a good 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
11/01/1993Loan Considerationexamined for loan
Provenance William T. Walters, Baltimore, 1858-1860, by commission; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894, by inheritance; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Signature] Lower center: Miller (?)
Credit Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1858-1860

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watercolor on paper
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
8 13/16 x 11 11/16 in. (22.4 x 29.7 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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