This is a watercolor study developed from one of Stewart’s favorite frontier episodes, the butchering of the bison after the hunt. In Miller’s first iterations of this scene, Stewart stands on the right of the composition where the bonneted Indian now stands (CR# 117A and 118). By replacing Stewart with a distinguished Indian figure, Miller was probably accommodating later patrons who cared less about Miller’s sponsor than about exotic imagery from the West.
The pictorial narrative, even though now being slanted toward a focus on native people and their hunting pursuits, is still influenced by an Anglo presence. The man doing the butchering is probably Stewart’s chief hunter, Antoine. This would suggest that the buffalo was felled by Antoine, that he is taking the prime bit of meat, the hump rib, and that the Indians are standing around primarily to pick up what remains. This watercolor probably served as a preliminary study for both the William Walters and Alexander Brown paintings of the same scene (CR#s 117B and 117C).
Peter H. Hassrick
UR: Taking the Hump rib
The artist; [?]; Mae Reed Porter, Kansas City, MO; [M. Knoedler and Company, New York, NY]; InterNorth Art Foundation, Omaha, NE; present owner