Miller used this figure of a Shoshone man smoking a pipe to illustrate Otium Cum Dignitati (leisure with dignity) and to opine that
It is only in savage life that real and absolute liberty exists. This man bears about the appearance of it. We can see at a glance that he is not troubled with taxes,--by the same token, we could almost affirm that he has left no Mrs. Caudle in his lodge to give him a “bit of her mind” on his return home. A pipe, the great solace of his leisure hours, is lighted and he is exhaling the smoke in volumes from his mouth and nostrils alternately, with a thorough enjoyment of its aroma. (Ross, 1968, text accompanying plate 40)
This may well be the sketch that Miller made in preparation for the painting that became part of the Walters commission (CR #331B). He depicts the man wrapped in a highly decorated and fringed buffalo robe with quiver of bow and arrows over his shoulder and a woman’s saddle on the ground at the lower left. A teepee is behind him at the right and several figures in the distance at the left.
Mrs. Caudle is a fictional character created by nineteenth-century British humorist Douglas Jerrold, who wrote for Punch magazine. In 1846 he compiled his Punch essays into a book titled Mrs. Caudle’s Curtain Lectures, a reference to the curtains that surrounded fashionable four-poster beds of the day and suggesting that her lectures were delivered after the couple went to bed, when the husband could not escape.
The artist; The Porter Collection; Mae Reed Porter, Kansas City, MO; [M. Knoedler and Company, New York, NY]; InterNorth Art Foundation, Omaha, NE; present owner