Exhibition of Indian Tribal Ceremonies at the Olympic Theater, Philadelphia
Attributed to John Lewis Krimmel (1786–1821)
Formerly attributed to Pavel Petrovich Svinin (1787/88–1839)
Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on white laid paper
7 1/16 x 9 1/4 in. (17.9 x 23.5 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1942
Not on view
In watercolor produced for Pavel Petrovich Svinin’s "A Picturesque Voyage in North America" (1815), Krimmel illustrated Svinin’s account of an American Indian dance ceremony at an 1812 tribal delegation meeting in Philadelphia. Scholars have not, however, been able to document the occurrence of such a meeting. Svinin may have invented this narrative by combining details from two 1804 performances: one staged by an Osage delegation for Thomas Jefferson during a visit to Washington, D.C., and another a few weeks later by the same tribal representatives at New York City’s Vauxhall Gardens. Krimmel, like Svinin, had never witnessed such an event in person. Working with the sources he had at hand, he derived the figures in his council scene from works by Benjamin West and from anatomical studies he had done as a student in Philadelphia.