Miller based this watercolor on a field sketch (CR# 294), but he has brought this image to a higher level of completion. We can now see clearly the cowrie shell necklace worn by Ma-wo-ma, as well as the blue-tipped bear claws and the quilled or beaded designs sewn onto Ma-wo-ma’s shirt. The hair bow, in particular, now shows the shiny, rounded forms of multi-colored beads that formed their typical decoration. Since these details are not visible in the original sketch, it is possible that Miller looked to Catlin or Bodmer, both of whose images were available as prints.
According to Miller’s accompanying note, Ma-wo-ma was “a man of high principle, in whom you could place confidence.” When Stewart’s horses had been stolen on an earlier trip, the Shoshone leader succeeded in negotiating their return, and admonished the Scotsman that had he been under Ma-wo-ma’s protection, none of them would have been taken in the first place. Ma-wo-ma also appears in an unlocated portrait (CR# 294A) and two major oil on canvas paintings for Stewart, Attack by Crows (1841, CR# 377A) and Cavalcade (1839, CR# 178A).
LC: AJMiller. LR: Ma-wo-ma. 64
The artist; William T. Walters, Baltimore, MD; present owner by gift