This watercolor was surely the source for Miller’s portrait of an Arikara woman included in the Walters commission. However, unlike many of the sketches related to the Walters commission, this one does not appear to have been painted around the same time. Rather, the economical, yet evocative drawing of her facial features, along with the cursory rendering of her clothing and jewelry, are characteristic of Miller’s early work. The heavy wear on the sheet and the paint on its surface, along with the fact that its edges have been trimmed to an irregular size, suggest that this may have originated in the field. Miller subsequently mounted it to another sheet of paper, perhaps a page from one of Miller’s personal scrapbooks, on which he has inscribed the title.
The woman’s fresh, unscarred countenance suggests that she had been with the trappers long enough to have evaded the third devastating smallpox epidemic which hit the Arikara in early summer 1837 and was said to have killed half of the tribe. As with the Walters version, this woman’s rounded features, full lips, and light gray eyes all conform to Anglo-American features which appealed to Miller and his audience’s tastes. The artist noted that she was “about the best specimen we came across of the women belonging to the Aricara [sic] tribe….” Miller also painted an oil on canvas of this subject (CR# 301A, unlocated) for Sir William Drummond Stewart, which was exhibited in New York and then auctioned in Edinburgh following the patron’s death.
LL: AJM. LR: An Aricara [sic]
The artist; [?]; Thomas Gilcrease, Tulsa, OK: present owner by gift