Indian Doctor Concocting a Pot of Medicine, 1849-1855

Not on Viewexpand_more

Like other American artists of the Romantic era, Seth Eastman occasionally idealized Native people. Here he gave a chanting, rattle-shaking healer the form of a classical hero, drawing on the sculptures and paintings he would have studied at West Point, possibly a cast of the Belvedere Torso (1st century C.E., Vatican Museums). Such parallels were meant to satisfy the 19th-century viewer’s longing to escape to a simpler, purer time, while conferring moral virtue on the figure.

Other details show Eastman’s gift for observation. The woven basket may be for medicinal herbs, the little five-sided pouch for paint. The creature (maybe a opossum or otter) slung over the post is part of the healing process, as is the bird near the healer’s knee.

This watercolor, one of 35 works on paper by Eastman in Mia’s collection, was the basis for an illustration in Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s massive "Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States" (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co., 1851-57).

Indian Doctor Concocting a Pot of Medicine
Artist Life
Accession Number
James J. Hill (St. Paul, 1838-1916); his estate; James Jerome Hill Reference Library St. Paul (by 1921-1994; sold October, to MacMillan); W. Duncan MacMillan, Wayzata (1994-d. 2006); the W. Duncan and Nivin MacMillan Foundation (2006-2014; given to MIA)
Catalogue Raisonne
Seth Eastman: A Portfolio of North American Indians 29
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

Zoom in on the left to the detail you'd like to save. Click 'Save detail' and wait until the image updates. Right click the image to 'save image as' or copy link, or click the image to open in a new tab.