[SITTING BULL. 1831?-1890.]
PHOTOGRAPH WORN AROUND SITTING BULL'S NECK AT TIME OF HIS DEATH.
CRONAU, RUDOLF. 1855-1939. Cabinet-size albumen print, 4 1/4 by 6 1/2 inches, being a head and shoulders portrait of artist Cronau, by W. Kurtz of New York, signed and inscribed on the verso, "To his friend / Tatanka-iyotanka (Sitting Bull) / Rudolf Cronau," additionally inscribed "Special artist & Correspondent / of the "Gartentaube" / Leipzig Germany," water stains, wear, 1/2 inch loss at upper center margin of recto, dark stains to left and right margins of verso, second inscription traced over. Together with Autograph Manuscript of Cronau, 6 pp, 4to and 8vo, n.p., n.d., explaining the history of the photograph above, plus related correspondence and notes in English and German, 1897-1936, tracing the journey of the photograph from the time of Sitting Bull's death.
In 1881 German artist and journalist Rudolf Cronau was the first Westerner to paint Sitting Bull from life. The older Sioux chief and the younger German journalist struck up an unlikely friendship, and when Cronau departed Sitting Bull's camp, he gave the chief this signed and inscribed photograph.
In 1890 Sitting Bull was murdered as Lakota policemen, acting at the behest of the U.S. government, attempted to arrest him in order to prevent his participation in the Ghost Dance, a Plains Indian ritual with apocalytic overtones.
Seven years after Sitting Bull's death, a friend of Cronau's was visiting Los Angeles and passed by the window of Cambell's Curio Store on South Spring street. There he was stunned to see Cronau's photograph among a group of Indian relics belonging to Sitting Bull. Cronau entered into correspondence with W.D. Campbell, the proprietor of the store (Campbell's letters are present here), and learned that Sitting Bull was wearing Cronau's photograph on a string around his neck at the time of his death, that it was stained with Sitting Bull's blood, and that the photograph and other relics were collected by a Standing Rock Indian trader named Mr. Angevine. Campbell offered Cronau the photograph for $25, but Cronau instead offered to trade artwork for the piece. Campbell refused, and the photograph was sold to another client. (Later records indicate the buyer was a Mr. T.S. Lowe of Los Angeles.)
In 1921 Cronau discovered that the photograph was on display at the Museum of the California Academy of Science in San Francisco. Again Cronau pursued the photograph, but was not able to purchase it from the William Fitzhugh estate which had loaned it to the museum. Instead the photo traveled to the Museum of the American Indian in New York, curated by Dr. George Heye. FInally, in 1936, Cronau convinced Heye to trade the photograph for one of Cronau's paintings, and thus the photograph made its way back to its original owner, to be married to the considerable archive of correspondence and manuscripts Cronau had accumulated over the decades.