Portrait of Big Buffalo, A Chippewa
Portrait of Big Buffalo, A Chippewa


Portrait of Big Buffalo, A Chippewa
Charles Bird King, 1827
CHARLES BIRD KING (1785-1862).

Portrait of Big Buffalo, A Chippewa
signed, dated and inscribed 'Odeg Buffalo/Copy by C King from a drawing/by Lewis/Washington 1826' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
17 1⁄2 X 13 3⁄4 in. (44.5 x 34.9 cm.)
Painted in 1826.

Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Private collection, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Sotheby's, New York, 25 May 1988, lot 88, sold by the above.
Private collection, acquired from the above.
Sotheby's, New York, 22 May 2013, lot 100.
Acquired by the late owner from the above.

The present work was probably painted for the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Thomas L. McKenney who commissioned the artist to paint oil portraits of the notable tribesman depicted in the watercolors of James Otto Lewis. Lewis had travelled through Indian Territory between 1825-27 and painted approximately 250 portraits, at least 25 of which King copied in oil for display in McKenney's Indian Gallery in Washington, D.C.

As chief of the Lake Superior Chippewa tribe for nearly a half-century, Buffalo led his nation into a treaty relationship with the United States Government and was instrumental in securing permanent Indian reservations for his people in present-day Wisconsin. Although Lewis' original portrait of Big Buffalo did not survive, King's inscription on the back of this work confirms that he worked from this original portrait to execute the present example.

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Christina Geiger
Christina Geiger Head of Department

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