Paul Kane: Royal Ontario Museum Collections
Skin, porcupine quills .

Gift of James and Elaine Slater and their four children, Michael, Kenneth, Lisa, and Abigail.

Quill-wrapped Fringe
Possibly Plains Cree,

North Saskatchewan River.
Collected by Paul Kane, 1846-1848.
In addition to sketching images of First Peoples and their customs, Paul Kane collected examples of their clothing, tools, and equipment. In composing his oil canvases, Kane referred to his collection and many of the artifacts appear in his paintings. Although there is no doubt that Kane collected personally, there is evidence to suggest that he also made arrangements to have artifacts sent to him by Hudson's Bay Company employees following his return to Toronto.1
Skin, porcupine and split bird quillwork, trade cloth, fur, beads

Acquired with the assistance of a Cultural Property Grant from the Department of Communications under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act and through the generous financial support of the Carolyn Sifton Foundation Inc.

Shoulder Bag
Western Woods Cree or Métis,

Possibly Saskatchewan River.
Collected by Paul Kane, 1846-1848.
In his book Wanderings of an Artist, Kane tells the story of Big Snake's death which he illustrates faithfully in the painting The Death of Big Snake:
Before leaving Norway House, some Cree Indians arrived, and boasted that one of their war chiefs had vanquished the great Blackfoot chief, Big Snake, in single combat. Big Snake had ridden away from the main body of his tribe, in hopes of stealing some horses. . . . The Cree chief discovered him from behind a hill, riding alone on the plain beneath, and, burning with vengeance, rushed at him, without waiting for his other warriors, who were not, however, far off. Big Snake did not see the others, and distaining to fly from a single foe, he boldly galloped to meet his enemy; but the fight was short, as the Cree succeeded in piercing him with his spear at the first meeting . . . .2
The Death of Big Snake
Blackfoot and Plains Cree,

North Saskatchewan River area.

Oil on Canvas

This account upon which the painting is based, however, is fictional for Big Snake did not die until 1858 - ten years after Kane had returned to Toronto and at least two years after the completion of the painting. Although this represents an opulent painting with its action forged entirely from Kane's imagination, through the comparison of the shoulder bag to its painted image the painting demonstrates Kane's tendency to refer to his collections for details and inspiration.
1. Paul Kane Family Papers (E.42/1 fo.52 and 57). Hudson's Bay Company Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba.

2. Paul Kane, Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America, Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, 1996, p. 309.

Land Study, Studio View Exhibition Tour

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