George Catlin and Karl Bodmer, who preceded Miller into the West by several years, each painted interior views like this. Their subjects were staid groupings inside Mandan lodges on the upper Missouri River, and since the artists’ images were published as book plates or in print portfolios by the time Miller chose this as a subject for his art, they may well have served as models.
Miller described this painting as a lively genre scene involving communal socializing, music, and gambling. As an interior view it is strikingly bright and airy. The group around the fire is playing what he called “a game of hand.” A small piece of wood is passed surreptitiously among some of the players and others are challenged to identify its whereabouts. The group joins in chanting, and as the chorus increases, so does the betting. Miller called it a moment of “frenzy” and “excitement.” (Bell, 104)
Peter H. Hassrick
LR: AJMiller; on mat LR: No. 23 / Indian Lodge
The artist; Alexander Brown, Liverpool, England, 1867; by descent to Mrs. J.B. Jardine, Chesterknowes, Scotland; present owner by gift