War exploit robe - ROM2012_13013_3


War exploit robe

Maker: Probably Blackfoot
Medium:Probably dressed elk skin; painted with hematite, goethite, green earth pigments
Geography: Northern Plains, North America
Date: c. 1830-1850
212.5 × 196 cm
Object number: 2006.79.1
Credit Line: Gift of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust;Purchased by the Royal Ontario Museum with the assistance of a Moveable Cultural Property grant accorded by the Minister of Canadian Heritage under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. Acheté avec l'aide d'une subvention des Biens culturels mobiliers accordée par la Ministre du Patrimoine canadien en vertu de la Loi sur l'exportation et l'importation de biens culturels.
Not on view
DescriptionWithin the framework of war there functioned systems of warrior etiquette and formal accomplishment through which men achieved elevated social positions. The plains tribes adopted a form of heraldry, conventions by which war deeds were recorded and accredited. Specific insignia marked men’s rise through the ranks and publicized their elevated social position. The most impressive of these insignia were animal hide robes bearing the autobiographical painted records of accomplished warriors. The hero celebrated on this robe was likely a Blackfoot Indian active from around 1830 to 1840. We know this from the war deeds pictured, the style of depiction and the narrative devices. A close look reveals perhaps 21 separate vignettes depicting more than 80 war deeds, all probably performed by a single man. We may never know the identity of this impressive warrior, but we can recognize him – sometimes wearing a straight-up feather bonnet, or holding a painted shield. He is also “seen” as an abstract hand shooting a gun or capturing a lance. The deeds recorded on this robe are narrated as a form of visual story-telling or picture-writing. Some of the vignettes show a single action, others show a sequence of actions. The narrative carried within these is carried by a number of ideographic devices – including dashes for footprints, dots for gunshot traces, and abstract hands in place of the full human figure. A total of 52 hands are found on the robe – each representing the protagonist capturing objects or firing off weapons. He captured some 39 objects and mortally or otherwise wounded 30 enemies.
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