Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, or “King of the Maquas' and the culture of painting.

This work is part of the collection of our National Archives and it was painted by Joseph Verelst in 1710 Verelst lived in the years between 1648 and 1734.

I chose this one of the set of 4, because it features Peter Brant, possibly the first of the baptized Brant, family.

When I look at this work, the first thing that captures my attention is Brant's garb. First off, we see Chief Brant wearing a ceremonial red blanket. The red blanket has historical significance as it was traditionally presented as a gift to native peoples by the English, and this blanket may have been presented by Queen Anne.

Brant's toga is a rather unusual garb and it gives him a larger then life historical image. I stumbled over Brant's seemingly gift wrapped feet, but my faithful blog assistant editor, Mo Bayliss assures me that she has seen picture as of men wearing such traditional footwork in early pictures.

When I look at this work, I see the face of a white man. And, horror of horrors - were his breasts really this large? And, what about his tattoos? Has the artist, reworked Chief Brant's painted body designs into tattoos? Is this accurate? I am unaware of North American natives sporting such elaborate body markings but I am no student of Native cultural history.

I am intrigued by the way John Verelst plays with the background light and branches to give Brant a sort of natural halo.

The work appears to have touches of artistic cultural manipulation given the toga and Brant's features, but it is important that we get this straight. We weren't dealing with men who were awestruck by a handful of coloured beads. These were proud native leaders, and this occasion was ceremonial and tremendously respectful. I would suggest that Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth was called King, because he was treated as a King and this is the only word the English understood for him. The Mohawks were never, a conquered people and they were certainly not vassals

To visit the site this picture was extracted from, (The Society of 18th Century Gentlemen), please click here.

You may wish to check out these sites for addtional information.
1. Wikipedia. Click here.
2. Flicker. Click here.
3. Canada's Got treasures. Click here.
4. Library and Archives Canada. Click here.

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