River Eau Sucre-Indian Women
In this scene of Indian women watering their horses, Miller accentuates the foremost horse’s equipment and accessories. The artist’s careful delineation of the horse tack suggests his interest in recording the important role horses played among some Indian tribes. Miller predominantly depicted Indian men riding bareback, but often pictured his female subjects making use of saddles, riding, as he called it, à la [mode] Turque, “in the Turkish manner,” meaning with a saddle and stirrups.
Miller devoted passages in his expository notes to Indian women’s saddles and their distinctive form and function. Miller wrote, “The saddle of the females is of singular form, the [pommel] extending upwards of about 2 feet;–the cantle about 14 inches, the top of each turning outward, scroll fashion, the body of the saddle carved out of strong wood, is covered with tanned Bull-hide, placed on when moist, it bleaches in drying, conforming precisely to the shape underneath, giving great strength and beauty of form.” (Ross, 73)
Here, the artist depicts the rear of the principal horse and so illustrates the backside of the rider’s saddle and its cantle which extends about halfway up the rider’s back. It is topped with—just as Miller described—a scroll form and also beaded decoration. According to the artist, the function of the saddle is to provide stability and safety for the female rider; the saddles are “so constructed that she cannot readily fall.” (Ross, 137)
Karen B. McWhorter
UR: Shoshonee [sic] – Indian/woman. –
The artist; [?]; Thomas Gilcrease, Tulsa, OK; present owner by gift