Talking Robe

This talking robe is a buffalo robe, to start with. Native Americans sometimes painted their war deeds on their robes so everybody could see their accomplishments. The earlier the robes, the more stylized and simplistic they were. As Native Americans got more advanced, the art on the robes got more sophisticated, too.

This northern plains native wears a calico shirt, which was common; even in the early 1800's they were trade items. His bonnet is made from the hump of the buffalo, because that was where you could find the longest fur. I just loved that thing. It worked well in the painting and I felt very, very good about including it. It gave the painting a very interesting look.

Talking Robe

Talking Robe
A Limited Edition Artist Proof
by artist Howard Terpning
Image size 19" x 19"   Edition size   1000

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Symbols of the Talking Robe
Talking robes were created to be worn, and those were the only items of clothing on which Native Americans would paint war deeds. The symbols in the bottom center represent bows and arrows that the wearer captured in battle. The marks just below the left side of the robe's "collar" represent the rifles this warrior took. The marks just above those are horseshoes; they symbolize the horses he captured or stole. The rest of the drawings pictured the many combats in which this brave participated.

This talking robe dates from the mid-19th century, so the art on it was relatively stylized and simplistic. As Native Americans neared the 20th century, the art on their robes became more sophisticated. Although the Indians would often use many colors with which to picture their accomplishments, Howard Terpning chose to use mostly yellow and green, with brown outlines, for this particular robe. "I used those colors because I thought red would be too distracting," Terpning says.

gallery index of Howard Terpning
related link - Opening the Sacred Bundle


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