This provocative image shows a pretty, young, topless Indian woman standing next to a pool of water handing a buffalo horn cup up to Sir William Drummond Stewart. The curve of the cup she offers, silhouetted against the space between the two figures, rhymes formally with arc of her breast. Although the image is coyly inscribed “Giving Drink to a Thirsty Trapper,” it clearly depicts Stewart, with his hook-nose, mustache, and white buckskin jacket. Stewart’s semi-autobiographical novel, Altowan (1848), refers to several amorous liaisons between him and Indian women during the trip. This image, publicly displayed in an album in his drawing room, demonstrates another example of Stewart’s willingness to flout social conventions with thinly-veiled imagery.
This sketch was drawn in pencil and then brushed with wash, with details added in thick black ink. Areas around the left rear hoof of Stewart’s horse, the horse’s hindquarters, and Stewart’s face have been scraped out and painted over, probably as a means of correcting errors, rather than creating highlights. Pentimenti are also visible in the face and figure of his Metis companion (Pierre or Antoine). The image is rendered with black ink, but the inscriptions appear to have been added separately in brown.
UL: 14. UR: Receiving a draught of water from [cropped] Indian Girl–
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart, ca. 1839; Frank Nichols Stewart, 1871; Bonamy Mansell Power; willed to Edward Power, 1900; by descent to Major G.H. Power, Great Yarmouth, England, 1966; present owner