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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Elk-Foot of the Taos Tribe

This 1909  painting of Elk-Foot of the Taos Tribe by Eanger Irving Couse hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D C.
"Elk-Foot of the Taos Tribe is a 1909 painting which is considered to be the masterwork of E. Irving Couse.

The painting was purchased for the United States national art collection by the well-known art collector William T. Evans and is now displayed in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The painting measures 78 1/4 x 36 3/8 in. (198.6 x 92.4 cm.)

Elk-foot, whose anglicized name was Jerry Mirabal, began posing for Couse in 1907 and was one of the painter's favorite subjects because of his "physical beauty and ideal features."

The painting seems inaccurate, however. A coup stick would be carried by North Americans, but not by the Taos tribe. The blanket Elk-Foot wears is from England, and his moccasins were from Couse's studio, and weren't used during the Taos period." -- Wikipedia
The Smithsonian tells it this way:
"Couse photographed and painted Elk-Foot numerous times. For this portrait of the proud Taos Indian, the artist borrowed a Plains Indian symbol of courage and valor, the “coup stick.” Carried during battle, the coup stick is used to strike an opponent. The first brave to strike the body of an enemy with this stick receives the scalp, whether he or another has made the kill. Elk-Foot's red blanket was made from fabric imported from the textile manufacturing region of Gloucestershire, England, while the moccasins were accessories from Couse's studio. This nostalgic portrait reveals the physical beauty, ideal features, and majestic bearing of Indian peoples." --  Smithsonian Institution

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