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Item #41158 Ball Play. George CATLIN.

CATLIN, George (1796-1872)

Ball Play

[Pl. 23] London: Chatto & Windus, [circa 1875]. Hand-coloured lithograph mounted on card within ink-ruled frame. Image size: 11 15/16 x 17 11/16 inches. Card size: 17 5/8 x 21 1/4 inches.

A fine image showing a scene of "a beautiful and exciting game" from Catlin's 'North American Indian Portfolio', one of the most important accounts of Indigenous American life.

"Amongst the forty-eight tribes which I have visited," Catlin writes, "I find the game of Ball everywhere played; and to my great surprise, by tribes separated by a space of three thousand miles, played very nearly in the same manner; the chief difference consisting in the different construction of the ball-sticks used - the modes of laying out the ground - and painting and ornamenting their bodies. In most of the tribes there are certain similar regulations as to dress, ornaments, &c., which no one is allowed to depart from; and in the three portraits given in the illustration here, these peculiar and general modes are all set forth. Amongst all the tribes I have visited in their primitive condition, where their native modes are unchanged by civilized innovations, I find that every player must enter the play entirely denuded, with the exception of their breech-cloths and ornamented belts around their waists... leaving all their limbs free to act, without the least incumbrance of dress. And that they may feel and appreciate more to their advantage the ground that they run upon, they uniformly enter the lists to run in this desperate chase with the naked foot." In Catlin's description of the game, he includes an account of the active role that women played in these occasions writing, "the moment the ball is started, she sets off in the darting throng--yelling and screaming as she runs--following up her husband, who is in search of the ball" (Catlin). Catlin summarized the Indigenous peoples he encountered as "an honest, hospitable, faithful, brave, warlike, cruel, revengeful, relentless, - yet honourable, contemplative and religious beings." In a famous passage from the preface of his North American Indian Portfolio, Catlin describes how the sight of several tribal chiefs in Philadelphia led to his resolution to record their way of life. "The history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy of the lifetime of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life shall prevent me from visiting their country and becoming their historian." From 1832 to 1837, Catlin spent the summer months sketching the tribes and then finished his pictures in oils during the winter. The record he left is unique, both in its breadth and in the sympathetic understanding that his images constantly demonstrate. A selection of the greatest of images from this record were published in the North American Indian Portfolio in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible. The present image is one of the results of this publishing venture and is both a work of art of the highest quality and a fitting memorial to a vanished way of life.

Abbey Travel 653; Field Indian Bibliography 258; Howes C-243; McCracken 10; Sabin 11532; Wagner-Camp 105a:1.

Item #41158

Price: $4,500.00

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