Sep 30, 2021 - Sale 2580

Sale 2580 - Lot 2

Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(AMERICAN INDIANS.) John Raphael Smith, engraver; after Wright. The Widow of an Indian Chief Watching the Arms of Her Deceas'd Husband. Mezzotint, 17 3/4 x 21 1/4 inches; trimmed within platemark, mounted on early stiff paper, 1-inch closed tear in lower right corner, moderate toning. London: J.R. Smith, 29 January 1789

Additional Details

The first engraving of a much-beloved 1784 painting, usually known by the simpler title "Indian Widow," which is now in the Derby Museum in England. It was likely inspired by a passage on Muscogee and Chickasaw funerary rites in James Adair's 1775 "History of the American Indians," page 187: "If he was a war-leader, she is obliged for the first moon, to sit in the day-time under his mourning war-pole, which is decked with all his martial trophies, and must be heard to cry with bewailing notes. . . . They are allowed no shade, or shelter." A stormy coastline and raging volcano can be seen in the background. Perhaps the painting could also be read as an allegory for Great Britain's recent loss of its American colonies.