The lot features a Northern Plains Pictorial Polychrome Painted Buffalo Hide Robe with excellent documentation and dates to circa 1860 to 1870. A Plains Indian hide painting, on a “split-robe”, as indicated by the longitudinal seam in this buffalo robe, this example was collected by Lt. G.G. Greenough of the 4th Artillery as is marked on the hide. Depicting a war record, the picture shows a colorful cavalcade of four rows of equestrian Indian warriors in full regalia of war bonnets, feathered shields, lances and coup sticks. Red, yellow, black, blue and green pigments are used sparingly while the ink outlines are skillfully rendered to provide wonderful graphic representations. Expertly tanned by women, buffalo hides were utilized by men in the recording and proclaiming of the war exploits. In their colored drawings these Plains Indians developed a rigorous art style, which reflected the martial spirit of their nomadic lifestyle. This hide painting is representative of the style that replaced more archaic pictographs after c. 1860, particularly among the Western Sioux, Cheyenne and their neighbors of the central northern Plains. Still the style predates most ledger art produced in the 1870’s – 1880’s time period. This stylistically flattened figure representation utilizes limited foreshortening. Characteristic is the increasing range of flat colors, the attention given to detail, the arrangement of figures in a number of rows, one above the other, all moving in the same directions from right to left. The narrative character of these drawings promoted the detailed picturing of identifying elements: shields, headdresses, fur-wrapped lances, and other regalia. The apparent popularity of dark cloth coats suggest a circa 1870 date of the pictured event(s). It is also interesting to note that there are several lances, which could possibly be identified to specific societies. The lone horseman at the bottom of the composition suggests an autobiographical quality. The warrior in the upper right could be another artist. The style of this figure varies from the others in the composition. The collection history of this piece adds another dimension to the importance of the robe. Lt. G.G. Greenough of the 4th Artillery was attached to General George Crook during his second winter camping in 1876. The 4th artillery was acting as infantry during this campaign. Traveling out of Fort Fetterman they moved toward the Sioux and Cheyenne who had taken refuge along the headwaters of the Tongue and Powder Rivers after the Little Big Horn battle. The followers of the Cheyenne Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf had camped at the head of the Willow Creek in the Big Horn Mountains and this where Colonel Mackenzie and his cavalry unit, under Crook, discovered them on November 25, 1876. Mackenzie’s troop attacked the village of two hundred and five lodges and routed the Cheyenne. They captured the camp, and seven hundred and five horses. Mackenzie sent word to Crook and the rest of the column to come and help with the long rifles of the infantry to dislodge the Cheyenne still holding out in the high rocks. The captured camp was looted and the lodges, buffalo meat, valuable robes, ammunition, saddles and “the comforts of civilization – in very appreciable quantities”, were burned. The battle was one of the largest in the war and effectively ended the Northern Cheyenne participation in the Indian wars. One could hypothesize that this robe was booty from this campaign. The split hide itself indicates the robe was tanned for Indian use. The pictographs probably depict intertribal warfare also indicating this robe was made for Indian use. Typically such robes were created “to preserver a public record of these exploits, Plains men painted representations scenes on leather robes, tipi covers, and tipi linings. Its elements included episodic, non-chronological narrative content, precision in recording details of war equipment, and stylizations characterized by the flat, two-dimensional treatment of each figure (Conn. P. 139)” Much of the information above was written by Paul Raczka. Provenance: Authenticated by the experts at Christie's, Sotheby’s and Sundog Fine Art. Sotheby’s New York, October 25 and 26 1984 lot 316 (used as cover illustration) Christies New York American Indian Art May 25 1999 lot 117 sold for $92,700 Sotheby’s New York Arts of the American West December 4, 2013 sold for $118,750 From a New York Collection, a Private English Collection, also acquired from Morning Star Gallery Sante Fe, NM and from the renowned Sundog Fine Art Bozeman, Montana collection and collected by Bruce VanLandingham. Bruce VanLandingham was a pillar in the American Indian collecting community and a respected expert. Along with being an avid collector Bruce also was the sole owner of Sundog Fine Art in Bozeman which was both part museum and gallery. This Great American Bison Buffalo painted robe is considered to be the finest example known to exist and is truly a historically important item. The piece has been professionally adhered to a clothe which is secured to a wooden padded frame giving the hide strength. The frame has open areas allowing for the hide to breath, which preserves its wonderful condition.
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