Nez Percés Indian

Alfred Jacob Miller1858-1860

The Walters Art Museum
Baltimore, United States

"These Indians," wrote Miller, "are anti-belligerent, and have some other qualities that are rare and commendable; they are said to be religious, and honest and truthful in their intercourse with the whites. Their observance of religious ceremonies and rites are uniform and remarkable."

Many Indians from the middle Columbia River area pierced their nose and wore rings or thin dentalium shells in their septums. That is the trait for which the Nez Perces are historically named, and this Miller portrait is one of the earlier documents that shows a ring "thrust through" the brave's nose.

In July 1858 William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at twelve dollars apiece from Baltimore born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text, and were delivered in installments over the next twenty-one months and ultimately were bound in three albums. Transcriptions of field-sketches drawn during the 1837 expedition that Miller had undertaken to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (in what is now western Wyoming), these watercolors are a unique record of the closing years of the western fur trade.

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  • Title: Nez Percés Indian
  • Creator: Alfred Jacob Miller (American, 1810-1874)
  • Date Created: 1858-1860
  • External Link: For more information about this and thousands of other works of art in the Walters Art Museum collection, please visit art.thewalters.org
  • Roles: Painter: Alfred Jacob Miller (American, 1810-1874)
  • Provenance: William T. Walters, Baltimore, 1858-1860, by commission; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894, by inheritance; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
  • Object Type: watercolors
  • Medium: watercolor heightened with white on brown paper
  • Exhibitions: Alfred Jacob Miller and the Western Indians. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2006., Alfred Jacob Miller: Maryland and the West. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Washington College, Chestertown; Frostburg State University, Frostburg; Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Rockville. 1988., Alfred Jacob Miller: An Artist on the Oregon Trail. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody. 1981-1982.
  • Dimensions: H: 12 9/16 x W: 9 7/16 in. (31.9 x 24 cm)
  • Credit Line: Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1858-1860
  • Classification: Painting & Drawing
  • Accession Number: 37.1940.33