The Medicine Man (1899)

by Cyrus E. Dallin (1861 - 1944)

Photo Caption: Photo Maxine Mendoza © 2008 for the Association for Public Art
  • Title

    The Medicine Man

  • Artist

    Cyrus E. Dallin (1861 - 1944)

  • Year

    1899

  • Location

    Dauphin Street west of 33rd Street, East Fairmount Park

  • Medium

    Bronze, on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 8′ (base 8’6″)

  • Themes

    Equestrian Sculpture, Native American Themes

Commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the City of Philadelphia

At A Glance

  • The Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) purchased the sculpture and installed it at a site designated by the artist

  • The artist began making works that glorified the American Indian after seeing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show

  • Exhibited in the 1899 Salon and the 1900 Paris Exposition, where it received a silver medal

  • Francis LaFlesche, a distinguished Native American spoke at the dedication about the representation of the holy man

The nudity is not without its significance; it typifies the utter helplessness of man, when his strength is contrasted with the power of the Great Spirit, whose power is symbolized by the horns upon the head of the priest.

While the young Cyrus Dallin was working in one of his father’s mines in Utah, some of the miners discovered a bed of soft white clay, from which he modeled two life-size heads. His work attracted attention and financial support to underwrite his studies in art. Dallin moved to Boston in 1880, opened his own studio, and then sailed for France. While in Paris, Dallin encountered the touring Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and began to produce works that glorified the American Indian. The Medicine Man is one of four American Indian sculptures that he executed. It was exhibited in the 1899 Salon and the 1900 Paris Exposition, where it received a silver medal.

The Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) purchased the sculpture and installed it at a site designated by the artist. At the dedication ceremony in 1903, Francis LaFlesche, a distinguished Native American, spoke about the representation of the holy man: “In many of the religious rites the priest appeared in such a manner. The nudity is not without its significance; it typifies the utter helplessness of man, when his strength is contrasted with the power of the Great Spirit, whose power is symbolized by the horns upon the head of the priest.”

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

 

RESOURCES

Loading map...

More artworks