Young Chief of Sack Nation (Painting)

Young Chief of Sack Nation. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.Artist/Maker: Unknown[1]

Created: c. 1805

Origin/Purchase: North America

Materials: watercolor on paper

Dimensions: D: 7.1 (2 13/16 in.)

Location: Entrance Hall

Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Virginia and Nicholas Trist; by descent to Frances Maury Burke; by descent to Virginia Randolph Burke and Ellen Burke Eddy; by loan and then gift to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1941

Accession Number: 1927-82

Historical Notes: According to family tradition, this "Portrait of a young chief of the Sack nation of Indians" was part of Jefferson's collection at Monticello. It was mostly likely given to him by a member of the delegation of Native Americans from the "Missouri and Mississippi," which arrived in Washington late in 1805.

The portrait may depict Wa Pawni Ha, a seventeen-year-old Sack chief who was befriended in Washington by Sir Augustus John Foster, secretary to the British minister there. Foster described Wa Pawni Ha as having "dark hazel eyes, short blunt teeth, the upperlip a little pressed upwards, straight nose and very fat cheeks...the young Sack chief wore his hair down on the forehead which indicates the age of youth..."[2] At Foster's request the Swiss miniaturist David Boudon (also Bourdon, active in the United States 1797-1816) took Wa Pawni Ha's portrait in late December.[3] Wa Pawni Ha may have presented the image to Jefferson when the delegation visited the President's House on January 4, 1806.[4]

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 413.
  2. "Sir Augustus John Foster and 'The Wild Natives of the Woods'" William & Mary Quarterly 9 (April 1952): 202-205.
  3. Ibid.; Vere Foster, ed. The Two Duchesses (London: Blackie and Son, 1898), 257.
  4. John C. Ewers, "'Chiefs from the Missouri and Mississippi' and Peale's Silhouettes of 1806,' Smithsonian Journal of History 1 (Spring 1966): 15.

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