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Title

Shirt: Gallery Label - Current

Author

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Date

2011-04-19

Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
This one-of-a-kind shirt was created in the 18th century by Native Americans living in the Great Lakes region. Early French explorers interacted and traded with Native American tribes in the area referred to as New France, a French colony that existed from 1534-1763. This area initially extended from the state of New York to Minnesota, and from Canada to Louisiana. News of interesting "primitive" Native American people was sent to French royalty who demanded items created by these people be brought back home. This garment would have been worn by a Native American man of high status, and was created and painted by a woman. The animal hide is probably antelope, traded from the tribes to the west because it is stronger and thinner than deer hide. The shirt has elements from both the Great Lakes and Plains regions, and the complex designs may have been inspired by tattooing. Shown headless and with pointed body and wings, the interlocking abstracted painted designs on the body probably represents the sacred Thunderbird, an important being in traditional Native American spirituality. The extreme degree of stylization clearly demonstrates that artistic abstraction was practiced by Native artists at the time. With designs from both the Great Lakes and Plains regions, this shirt may have been collected in today's Minnesota and created by the Dakota, the only tribe whose work incorporates elements from both of these regions.With less than 35 surviving objects from the early 1700s decorated with abstract painting from the Great Lakes and/or Eastern Plains region, this is the only known surviving example of a painted shirt.
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Type: Commentary, Gallery Label - Current
Source: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Rights: Copyright Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Added to Site: July 28, 2011