Art of the American West
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Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809–1893),
Mandan Buffalo Robe , n.d.
watercolor on paper, 12 x 16 ¾ in.; 30.48 x 42.55 cm
Gift of Enron Art Foundation, 1986.49.309

Much of the pictographic hide painting done by Plains men was biographical: it was customary for a warrior to depict his battle triumphs on his hide robe, his other clothing, and his tipi. This watercolor is a copy by Bodmer of a robe painted by the Mandan chief Mató-Tópe. The exploits pictured include Mató-Tópe’s fight with a Cheyenne chief, shown at the lower left. (Also in the collection is a watercolor of the same incident by Mató-Tópe  himself.) The accuracy and detail of Bodmer’s images are phenomenal; here he has faithfully duplicated the Mandan’s style.

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