THE ZIELINSKI COLLECTION
The Zielinski Collection was amassed from various sources over at least two generations. Although some things date from much earlier in the century, some were collected between 1888 and 1891, when Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was touring the European continent. The elder Zielinski obtained many things directly from Sioux show performers while in his native Berlin, Germany. Subsequently, additional items were obtained from dealers and other collectors, including those that survived World War II belonging to artist Max Schmidt Schlossow.
Three exhibits of the Zielinski Collection were mounted in the Americka Haus Berlin in 1971, 1976, and 1982. A catalog for each of the exhibits publishes many of the pieces. Among the many noteworthy items in the Collection, a number warrant special commentary.
First, is the classic Sioux Beaded and Fringed Hide Dress. This dress makes ample use of light blue as the background - a color that for many Indian people symbolized that all was in balance, and peace reigned; fair weather was at hand for daily pursuits, ceremonies, and the hunt. In addition, for many, the concentric rectangular motifs represented longevity - in effect functioning as unending entreaty for long life for the wearer. The mounted warriors depicted on the Sioux Man's Beaded Hide Pictorial Vest closely correspond to the Plains Indian drawing style applied to buffalo robes, ledger books, and other articles. Their eagle feather war bonnets, clothing, and feathered lances are worked in exacting detail. The horses' tails are "tied up" as in the custom to indicate a bellicose state. In several instances, a scalp suspended from the horse's bridle signifies that the mount had previously "ridden down" an enemy warrior in combat. Bighorn rams figure repeatedly in Lakota myth, their dynamic competition during breeding season not missed on Indian observers. Likewise, the two buffalo bulls charging each other conjure up strength and power for combat.
The numerous battle scenes painted in the archetypal Plains Indian drawing style on the Sioux Painted Pictorial Buffalo Hide Robe doubtless portray specific events in the original owner's fighting career. Such robes declared to all that the owner was a warrior of great accomplishment. The mounted protagonist is arrayed in the formal clothing of his people, and he bears shield and lance for use in close-up combat. Replete with stake loops left from the tanning process around the perimeter, as well as the vignettes of combat splayed across its surface, this robe epitomizes Plains Indian's dramatic method of displaying personal war deeds. The Central Plains Pony Beaded and Fringed Hide Leggings typify Plains Indian pony beadwork from roughly the first half of the 19th century. Simple, bold, motifs often in only white and one other color are traits of this decorative genre. Finally, the Crow Beaded and Fringed Hide Tobacco Bag is exceptional not only for its rarity, but also for its superior artistic qualities. Straightforward, geometric designs subdivided into smaller elements involving primary pastel colors characterize much 19th Crow beadwork.
Benson L. Lanford
May 3, 2004
PROPERTY FROM THE ZIELINSKI COLLECTION