Though this painting is ostensibly about two Shoshone Indian girls, the young woman standing behind her companion is clearly the focal point of the composition. The girl in front looks to her left, avoiding eye contact with the viewer. Her long staff, angled diagonally from the upper right to the lower left, serves to draw the eye along its length to the two dogs that look up intently at the second, partially concealed girl.
Miller may have used historical sources for this scene, which appears more an idealized depiction of young, beautiful Indian women than a portrait. The girl in front stands in a graceful S curve with her weight shifted to one foot, resembling classical depictions of Diana. Her posture and the obedient dogs at her feet underscore the likeness, as Diana is often depicted with arm raised, drawing an arrow from her quiver, accompanied by maidens and hunting dogs. The second, curvaceous girl screened in part by her companion is reminiscent of an Old Master’s muse. She raises her right hand to reveal her neckline in a conventional gesture and, with her head tilted to one side, gazes out at the viewer. She is both demure—in that she seems to hide behind her friend—and bold—in that she engages the viewer directly with a knowing look.
The artist; by descent to Louisa Whyte Norton; [Old Print Shop, New York, NY, 1947]; [Edward Eberstadt and Sons, New York, NY]; present owner