"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Guy Johnson & Karonghyontye



This 1776 painting entitled Colonel Guy Johnson and Karonghyontye (Captain David Hill) by Benjamin West hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Wikipedia describes it this way:
Colonel Guy Johnson and Karonghyontye (Captain David Hill) is a 1776 portrait by Benjamin West, an Anglo-American painter of historical scenes around and after the time of the American War of Independence. Benjamin West was among the founders of the Royal Academy in London, serving its president from 1792 to 1805 and 1806 to 1820.
The portrait depicts the military officer and diplomat Guy Johnson and the Mohawk chief Karonghyontye (who also went by the English name of David Hill). Johnson was the British superintendent of northeastern America's six Indian nations and commissioned the portrait in 1776 while in London to secure that royal appointment. Sailing from Canada, Johnson must have been accompanied by his close friend Karonghyontye. The alliance between British forces and several Indian tribes seriously threatened the rebel colonists' chances of victory during the Revolutionary War.
In the portrait Benjamin West signifies Johnson's role as ambassador to the Indians by equipping him in a red-coated uniform with moccasins, wampum belt, Indian blanket, and Mohawk cap. Karonghyontye is shown pointing to a peace pipe, while Johnson grasps a musket. This could suggest that harmony between Europeans and Indians will be maintained at all costs. The concept of cooperation extends to the background, where an Indian family gathers peacefully before a British military tent. -- Wikipedia
Karonghyontye (Captain David Hill)

John Walker's 1974 book says that “The Indian has not been identified, and is probably intended merely as a “noble savage” advocating peace, a constant British hope throughout the Revolution. ” It has been thought that the Native American figure carrying a pipe might be Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant). But today it is believed to be  Karonhyontye.

Wikipedia says this of Karonhyontye:
David Hill (Karonghyontye) (“Flying Sky”) (12 Jan 1745–Nov 1790), was a Mohawk chief during the American Revolution. As a prominent war chief he is often titled “Captain” David Hill.
He was born in the Lower Mohawk Village of Tiononderoge, the son of Aaron Hill (Oseraghete) and Margaret Green (Tekonwanonronnih). He was the brother of Aaron Hill (Kanonraron), who also became a prominent war chief in the Revolution. He married Esther Spring (or Springstead) (Dekahondagweh) around 1770. The couple had six children. Hill was a member of the Bear Clan, and held the title Astawenserontha (“Wearing Rattles”).
Like the other Mohawks Hill was a Loyalist, a close associate of William Johnson and a friend of Joseph Brant. Among other things, David and his brother Aaron accompanied British Captain John Munro on his raid of Ballston, New York in 1780. -- Wikipedia
Guy Johnson is shown wearing moccasins.

Similar these found in the British Museum in London, which originally belonged to Benjamin West.

The band on Johnson's hat similar to this one, also belonging to West and currently in the the British Museum. (See Ellen G. Miles, American Painting of the 18th Century, 1995.
 Miles points out an x-ray of the painting showing that West  originally depicted Johnson wearing a white bow at his neck.

X-radiograph detail


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