Indian Grand Parade, Indian Procession
The highlight of the rendezvous was the arrival of the Snake Indians, regular guests at the rendezvous, who staged a grand entry—or “cavalcade,” as Miller termed it—in Stewart’s honor. Led by Chief Ma-Wo-Ma, a respected and, according to Miller, somewhat loquacious man, several hundred (or a thousand, depending on which source you believe) Snake Indians paraded around the rendezvous grounds lavishly dressed and decorated with unsparing amounts of vermillion, which Miller pointed out was “worth four dollars per oz.” in the mountains. William H. Gray, a lay missionary on his way back to the States, was a disgusted witness to the scene—“singing, yelling, and firing their arms, some naked, some dressed in various ways to suit their fancy”—although he had camped some distance from the festivities to avoid the drunkenness and debauchery. (Tyler, 1982, p. 31)
Miller began work on the Cavalcade, or “The Indian Procession,” after his spring 1839 exhibition at the Apollo Gallery in New York City. While he was painting it, a reporter for the New York Morning Herald visited his studio and described the scene as “one of those waste plains which lie at the foot of the Mountains of the Winds.” He wrote: “The tents of the Indians are scattered over a large tract. Around this extensive encampment winds an Indian procession…. This picture is a work of immense labor and displays the talents of the artist more to advantage, than any of those you saw at the Apollo in the spring.” (Tyler, 1982, p. 38)
This work, too, was exhibited at the Apollo after Miller finished it. One reviewer singled it out from among paintings by better-known American artists such as Thomas Cole, Seth Eastman, John Quidor, and Thomas Doughty as “a truly remarkable production.” The critic for the Mirror urged his readers to see the picture before it was shipped to Murthly because of “the novelty of the subject and the skillful execution; its evident truth to nature, and the mastery of its difficulties.” He declared that “the “work…would not discredit Horace Vernet [well known French romantic painter] himself, if he had painted it…. we fully agree with the uniform opinion expressed by the artists and amateurs who daily congregate around it, that it will attract attention abroad, and make a favorable impression there of the progress of American Art” (Tyler, 1982, pp. 38 – 39).
In this version, Stewart and his party have been moved to a slight hillock in the middle distance, rendering the brightly-lighted chief more prominent. Miller’s problems with perspective continue as he enlarged his small sketch to this enormous 69 x 96 inch composition, especially the giant teepee behind Stewart and his party.
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart, 1839; Frank Nichols, 1871; Joseph