Scenes From a Vanished West

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Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied's famed narrative of his trip to the United States and up the Missouri River in 1833-34, with its magnificent atlas of views and scenes of Indian life by Karl Bodmer, is celebrated as the greatest illustrated American travel narrative and the most important depiction of American Indians in the frontier era.

The journey took place at a time when the unspoiled, mythic West of the exploration and fur trade era was still vibrant, though on the verge of being shattered by the expansion of the United States. Bodmer's engravings of the Indians encountered on the upper Missouri are among the most iconic images of the American West. The present copy, being sold in our 13 June Fine Books & Manuscripts sale, is from the very rare French issue of Voyage dans l'Intérieur de l'Amérique du Nord, and showcases the best plates in the equally rare contemporary hand colour.

Complete sets of Maximilian in any format have become very difficult to find, with the rarest being those sets like the present with the correct mix of uncoloured and coloured plates exactly as issued. Click ahead for a detailed look.

Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana
13 June | New York

Scenes From a Vanished West

  • Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied. Voyage dans l'Intérieur de l'Amérique du Nord executé pendant les années 1832, 1833 et 1834. Paris: Chez Arthus Bertrand, 1840-1843. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    One of the most iconic images to emerge in any medium depicting the American West is the hand-coloured aquatint engraving "Periska-Ruhpa. Moennitarri Warrior in the Costume of the Dog." Commonly known as the "Dog Dancer," this portrait of Two Ravens demonstrates Bodmer's careful study of the dress and ceremonies of Plains Indians, a vibrant culture soon to vanish. 

  • Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied. Voyage dans l'Intérieur de l'Amérique du Nord executé pendant les années 1832, 1833 et 1834. Paris: Chez Arthus Bertrand, 1840-1843. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    "The Interior Hut of a Mandan Chief" depicts with astonishing detail the daily life of Plains Indians and the Mandan Tribe in particular. Bodmer wintered with the Mandans in 1833-1834 and provided an unparalleled ethnographic documentation of this particular North American Indian culture.

  • Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied. Voyage dans l'Intérieur de l'Amérique du Nord executé pendant les années 1832, 1833 et 1834. Paris: Chez Arthus Bertrand, 1840-1843. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    "Mato-Tope" shows the Mandan Chief in his warrior dress, and provides another striking example of Karl Bodmer's technical virtuosity and the delicacy of the hand-colouring in the present copy. While a more modern colourist would have rendered the warrior's body paint as thicker and more pronounced, the wash as shown here is a more accurate depiction of the natural pigments the Mandans would have used. 

  • Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied. Voyage dans l'Intérieur de l'Amérique du Nord executé pendant les années 1832, 1833 et 1834. Paris: Chez Arthus Bertrand, 1840-1843. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    "Mandan Chief" is another image of Mato-Tope, this time in his grand dress as chief. It is perhaps second only to the "Dog Dancer" as an iconic Western American portrait. The artist's dedication in providing a realistic depiction of Plains Indian dress is displayed in the close detail evident in the headdress and beadwork.

  • Karl Bodmer and Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied. Voyage dans l'Intérieur de l'Amérique du Nord executé pendant les années 1832, 1833 et 1834. Paris: Chez Arthus Bertrand, 1840-1843. Estimate $300,000–500,000.
    "Entry to the Bay of New York" provides another aspect of Bodmer's artistry. His work on Maximillan's "Travels in North America" was to illustrate not only a major ethnographic study, but an important travel narrative as well. Less well known than his images of Plains Indians, but equally deserving of praise, are Bodmer's depictions of American landscapes, beginning with New York harbour, and including scenes along the way to the stark cliffs of the upper Missouri.

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