The Trapper's Bride
Miller first painted The Trapper's Bride for Sir William Drummond Stewart while he was staying at the baronet's Murthly Castle in 1841. The original painting is unlocated, but an article reporting its sale in 1871 described the 10 by 8 foot canvas as, “An American Indian marriage, Sir William Drummond Stewart and Attendants being present, a grand gallery picture.” This second version of the scene, painted a few years after his return to Baltimore, is likely close to the original composition. The lovely young bride is clad in white buckskin and clutches strings of beads as she gazes downward. In his correspondence, Miller noted that the bride in the original painting, “is the cynosure of all observers,” and “hath a pensive and dreamy expression.” The figure of the Indian on the white horse, whose features resemble those of Shoshone Chief Ma-wo-ma (CR # 294B), likely takes the place of Stewart astride his white Arabian, Othollo in the original, while Stewart’s party is replaced by the mounted Indians in the background.
Such unions would have been unusual for Miller’s Baltimore audience, but marriage “in the custom of the country” was common in the West. Trappers and Indian women offered each other companionship and labor, but also important trade connections, diplomatic alliances, and knowledge about new cultures and geography. As pictured by Miller, these marriages usually took place in the bride’s village in the presence of her family, and the bride typically wore a white buckskin dress.
Signed LC: A. Miller/1845. Verso on stretcher (before relining): B. Cunard Esq. [B.C. Ward Esq?]
The artist; B.C. Ward [?]; Private collection, Boston, MA; William Postar, Boston, MA; [Kennedy Galleries, New York, NY 1978]; Harrison Eiteljorg, Indianapolis, IN; present owner by gift