Snake Dancer in Costume

CURTIS, Edward Sheriff (1868-1952)

Published by Suffolk Engraving Company, Boston, 1930
Art / Print / Poster
From Donald A. Heald Rare Books (ABAA) (New York, NY, U.S.A.)

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Photogravure after Edward Curtis, printed by the Suffolk Engraving Company, wove paper (watermarked 'Van Gelder Zonen Made in Holland'). Very good condition. A breath-taking image from "The North American Indian", the grandest illustrated work ever produced in the United States, the most important illustrated work on Native Americans, and the single greatest book in Western Americana. Only the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon's "Birds of America" surpasses Curtis in its massive ambition and beauty of execution. ".Because of the singular combination of qualities with which he has been blessed, and because of his extraordinary success in making and using his opportunities. (Curtis) has been able to do what no other man has ever done; what, as far as we can see, no other man could do. He is an artist who works out of doors and not in a closet. He is a close observer, whose qualities of mind and body fit him to make his observations out in the field, surrounded by the wild life he commemorates. He has lived on intimate terms with many different tribes of the mountains and the plains. He knows them as they hunt, as they travel, as they go about their various avocations on the march and in camp. He knows their medicine men and their sorcerers, their chiefs and warriors, their young men and maidens. He has not only seen their vigorous outward existence, but has caught glimpses, such as few white men ever catch, into that strange spiritual and mental life of theirs; from whose inner most recesses all white men are forever barred." (Theodore Roosevelt, Foreword to Volume I) The Snake Dancer depicted in this plate holds the traditional ceremonial accoutrements: an eagle feather "snake whip" and a small bag filled with corn meal. The Hopi ritual of the sacred Rain (Snake) Dance, in which the Antelope and Snake fraternities participated, lasted for 16 days in the month of August. In 1912, Curtis was permitted to participate in the Dance, the preparation for which he wrote, "We smeared pink clay over our moccasins and other parts of our costume and corn smut mixed with `man medicine' (a concoction of root juices and whatnot) over our forearms, calves and the right side of our head. We whitened our chin and blackened the rest of our face. Around our waist we placed the customary brightly woven fringed belt and in the rear, we hung a fox skin, which moves in rhythm of the dance" (Curtis, Volume XII). "The Hopi are without doubt among the most interesting of our surviving American Indians, and one of the few groups recently living in a state similar to that of a hundred years ago. They call themselves "Hopitu," The Peaceable people, and peace loving they have always been.Affability and sunny disposition are apt to be one's first impression of the dominating traits of Hopi character." (Curtis) Originally related to the Pueblo and Zuñi Indians, they inhabited Southwest region of the United States. Edward Curtis was fascinated by the story of the Native Americans from childhood. His in-depth knowledge of the various tribes increased in parallel with his skill as a photographer during his participation in a number of scientific expeditions in the 1890s. In 1896, Curtis began to take photographs of the Native American tribes (by 1930 he had taken over 40,000 negatives of eighty tribes) and evolve his hugely ambitious plan for a comprehensive work which would illustrate his romantic vision of Native American life before the disastrous impact of European contact. With the enthusiastic support of President Theodore Roosevelt (who wrote the foreword to the present work) and the financial backing of J. Pierpont Morgan (Curtis was introduced to him by Roosevelt), the publishing project finally got under way in 1906. Pierpont Morgan died in 1913 just before the completion of the ninth volume, but his son agreed to continue underwriting the project; between them, they eventually contributed about a third of the $1,500,000 cost. What had originally. Bookseller Inventory # 10169

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Snake Dancer in Costume

Publisher: Suffolk Engraving Company, Boston

Publication Date: 1930

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