Smoking with the Spirit of the Buffalo by Charles M. Russell
About the Work
At the turn of the twentieth century, access to and the popularity of small bronze pieces suitable for home display were in part fueled by the increase of American foundries. Small parlor pieces were available from galleries, Tiffany & Company, and Gorham. Bronzes such as Smoking with the Spirit of the Buffalo offered patrons insight into American Indian life and the key role that the buffalo played- "...his robe housed and clothed them, [and] his flesh was food", said wife Nancy Russell. She explained that "the Indians believe all animals live again in another world..., so when smoking, the Indian often prayed to the buffalo, holding his pipe to the skull and asking that his kind might always be plenty". Russell was inspired to create this bronze following a visit in 1888 with Alberta's Blood Indians, who believed that the buffalo would return from the underground where they had taken refuge after the white man had been driven out of the Indian country, and the Medicine Man's prayers would hasten that event.