This is one Bodmer’s most famous images: the only depiction he made of both his sponsor, Prince Maximilian, and of himself. The travelers spent the winter of 1833-1834 at Fort Clark, between the Knife and Heart rivers in the territory of the Mandan and Hidatsa Tribes, Bodmer here shows their first meeting with the Hidatsas outside the palisade fortification of the fort; a carefully composed image ably portraying the wary curiosity with which the representatives of two very different ways of life greeted each other. Bodmer stands, top-hatted, to the far right, Prince Maximilian is next to him, Dreidoppel is visible behind the two of them. The individuals amongst the Hidatsa include Ahschüpsa Masihichsi (`Chief of the Pointed Horn’) whom Bodmer had painted on 28 February 1834.
This rare engraving is from Karl Bodmer’s Travels in the Interior of North America. The work was published in Paris, Coblentz and London between 1839 and 1842. The aquatint engraving was completed by Alex Manceau after Karl Bodmer with blindstamp.
Karl Bodmer’s images show great versatility and technical virtuosity and give us a uniquely accomplished and detailed picture of a previously little understood (and soon to vanish) way of life. Swiss-born Bodmer was engaged by Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied specifically to provide a record of his travels in North America, principally among the Plains Indians.
In the company of David Dreidoppel (Prince Maximilian’s servant and hunting companion), their travels in North America were to last from 1832 to 1834. They arrived in Boston in July 1832, traveled on to Philadelphia, where they stayed with Napoleon Bonaparte’s elder brother Joseph. From here they headed west across Pennsylvania across the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh and the Ohio country, visiting all the important German settlements en route.
Their most important stop on their route west was at the utopian colony of New Harmony in Indiana. The Prince spent five months there in the company of some of the country’s leading scientific men, and studying all the relevant literature on backcountry America. On 24 March 1833 the party reached St. Louis, Missouri, and the start of the journey into Indian country.