||KING, Charles Bird
[Chippewa Chief Peechekir, also called Buffalo: A Charcoal Head Study by Charles Bird King for a Painting Later Published in McKenney and Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America].
[Washington, D.C.: circa 1830]. Charcoal heightened with white ongray paper, 10 1/8 x 6 1/4 inches. Unsigned. Handsomely presented in a ruled blue and black mat. A beautiful image in fine condition.
A rare Charles Bird King study of a Chippewa Chief
Peechekir (or Peechekor, Buffalo) was "a solid, straight formed Indian," Colonel McKenney recalled many years after meeting the Chippewa (Ojibwa, Anishinabe) chief at a treaty ceremony in the Michigan Territory circa 1825-27. According to Horan, Charles Bird King copied this head from a James Otto Lewis painting, but no evidence survives to prove it. It was probably lost, as were many Lewis paintings and the King oil of Peechekir, in the 1865 Smithsonian fire.
This sketch is one of sixteen known studies by King of Indian heads, discovered in 1974 among family papers by Bayard Leroy King, Saunderston, Rhode Island, a descendant of one Edward King, the artist's second cousin. The study is illustrated in Cosentino's The Paintings of Charles Bird King, and in Viola's Indian. The McKenney and Hall History of the Indian Tribes of North America... portrait of Peechekir is clearly based on this sketch.
Charles Bird King (1785-1862) was born in Newport, trained in London under Benjamin West, and eventually settled in Washington in 1819, calculating it was a good base for one who sought to earn a living mainly by portraiture. He was thus in the right place when the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Thomas L. McKenney, decided to add portraits of leading Indian chiefs to the collection of artifacts he had begun when he became superintendent of Indian trade in 1816. McKenney conceived the idea of an Indian portrait gallery at the time of the visit of a large delegation of Indians from the Upper Missouri to Washington in 1821-22. King was commissioned to execute the portraits.
An exceptionally handsome likeness of a Chippewa chief, sketched by one of the most famous and important, avidly collected, portrait-makers of 19th-century American Indians, this study is one of the few fine Indian portraits by Charles Bird King still to be found in the art market.
James D. Horan, The McKenney-Hall Portrait Gallery of American Indians (New York: Crown, 1972), pp.206-7. Andrew F. Cosentino, The Paintings of Charles Bird King - 1785-1862 (City of Washington: National Collection of Fine Arts & Smithsonian Institution Press, 1977), pp.203-4, cat. nos. 409, 641. Herman J. Viola, The Indian Legacy of Charles Bird King (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1976), p.128.