The Elkhorn Pyramid on the Upper Missouri

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Pulled from the original steel and copper plates, engraved in Paris between 1836 and 1843 under Karl Bodmer’s direction, after the artist’s own watercolours drawn from nature during the journey.

The engravings are hand-printed in colours, à la poupée, with extensive hand-colouring and some application of gum arabic, in the nineteenth-century manner.

Engraved by A. Fournier
Printed by Bougeard

During the voyage upriver from Fort Union to Fort McKenzie, Prince Maximilian observed a large mound of elk antlers stacked on the prairie near the river, noting in his journal that the immediate area was strewn with many relics of this kind. He was told that hunting parties of Blackfeet had collected these antlers, creating a pile which had become more than fifteen feet high, when Maximilian saw it, and consisted of more than a thousand antlers according to various estimates. Such collections or piles were regarded by the Blackfeet as possessing a strong magic or “medicine” which insured good hunting.

The version of this subject published in the atlas substituted a group of prancing elk or wapiti for the Indian figures described in the pencil drawing by Bodmer in the Joslyn collection.

Tableau 25 features other native shrines and medicine signs observed near Fort Union or Fort Clark. See also Tableaux 31, 36 and 41 for other animals depicted by Karl Bodmer on the upper Missouri.

Text by David Hunt, Director, Stark Museum, Orange, Texas, USA

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