Painted on blue tinted paper, this delicate watercolor was one of the two hundred that Miller painted for William T. Walters. As with the Gilcrease sketch and the Hunter oil (CR# 191, 191B), this version presents a more consensual union than the first two oil versions (CR# 191E and 191F). The bride looks at her groom with a slight smile, as their hands touch and her father appears to offer her, rather than to push her toward the groom.
However, in contrast to the image, Miller’s accompanying text presents the scene in cynical terms as a sale of the bride to her groom. Indian marriages typically included a dowry that was given to the bride’s family to compensate them for her lost work. As a reversal of the western system, many whites, including Miller, mischaracterized marriages as a sale. Apart from a modest necklace in the bride’s hand, nothing in the image explicitly refers to a sale. It may be, then, that Miller intended to juxtapose a cynical text with a sweet image as a form of comedy. Many seemingly straightforward sketches in the Walters commission are paired with humorous notes, perhaps to point up the follies of his protagonists. Miller also seems to have used the notes as a forum for experimenting with established images. His rough draft of the text for The Trapper’s Bride identifies the groom as Metis, but this passage is left out of the final note.
Signed LR: A JMiller. LR: 3
The artist; William T. Walters, Baltimore, MD; present owner by gift