Photogravure printed on India Proof (rice tissue) paper, 20.3x16.8cm (8x6.6in), and mounted on Holland Van Gelder paper, 31.7x24.1cm (12.5x9.5in). Image size is 18.4x14cm (7.25x5.5in). Mat size is 35.3x30.2cm (14x12in). The name, Sun Dance in Progress - Cheyenne, is printed to the bottom left of image and From Copyright Photograph 1911 by E.S. Curtis, centered just below the image. The Van Gelder paper has a few small tears to the bottom edge, likely remnants from being disbound from a larger volume, and a couple of offset tape stains, all hidden by the mat. This image can be found in Volume 6, page 128 of The North American Indian. Curtis’ photogravures on rice tissue paper are among some of the rarest and most sought after. Photogravure in Fine condition, just pop the mat in a frame and voila!
In The North American Indian, Curtis states, “The most important religious and devotional observance of the Cheyenne was the Sun Dance, which, as given by them, was in its broadest principles similar to the sun ceremony of the many other prairie tribes.” The Sun Dance was one of the ceremonies that was suppressed in the late 1800s by the U.S. government and therefore the ceremonies had to be done in secret until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978. A beautiful image!
Edward Sheriff Curtis, photographer and ethnologist, was best known for his photographs and documentation of the North American Indian during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Curtis worked for 30 years to complete The North American Indian, a 20-volume study of over 100 tribes with over 2,000 photographs. This extensive endeavor was dubbed by the New York Times to be “the most ambitious enterprise in publishing since the production of the King James Bible.” Over the years, there has been some controversy about his photographs being staged; using wigs or dress that were not generally used during the period and even taking out modern objects like clocks to show more historical renderings. The Smithsonian Magazine recognizes this and states “The photographs of Edward Curtis represent ideals and imagery designed to create a timeless vision of Native American culture at a time when modern amenities and American expansion had already irrevocably altered the Indian way of life.” Curtis must have felt as though he were racing against time to respectfully preserve and record the traditions for future generations before they vanished.