Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest

Gottfried Hotz & Johannes Malthaner, “Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest: Two Representations of Border Conflicts Between Mexico and the Missouri in the Early Eighteenth Century”

Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest Two Representations of Border Conflicts Between Mexico and the Missouri in the Early Eighteenth Century
Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest Two Representations of Border Conflicts Between Mexico and the Missouri in the Early Eighteenth Century

Shortly after WWII, Gottfried Hotz, of Zurich, Switzerland, a scholar of American Indian history and culture, came across an exciting discovery. In the course of studying Plains Indian art, he learned of the existence of two wall-sized skin paintings in Lucerne. The paintings were in the possesison of collateral descendants of Father Philipp Segesser, an 18th century Jesuit missionary to the Indians of Sonora Province, Mexico. Father Philipp had sent the works, the products of Indian artists, to his family as gifts.

In the year following his discovery, Mr. Hotz devoted himself himself to the difficult but ultimately rewarding task of establishing the origin of the paintings, identifying the incidents they portray, and determining their significance in the history of colonial New Spain.

Each of the paintings, called Segesser I and Segesser II, consists of three large skins (probably buffalo) sewn together. They are amongst the best preserved skin paintings in the world. According to the author’s painstaking analysis of details of setting and figures, Segesser I depicts a punitive expedition against Apaches in 1714 by Valverde. It was Valverde who 6 years later, as governor of New Mexico, ordered Villasur expedition into present-day Nebraska. It was an ill-fated expedition which ended in the massacre of most of the Spaniards of the party.

That massacre is the subject of Segesser II. Hotz was able to identify figures representing important members of the expedition, including Villasur and his chief aide, as well as the attackers, whose true identity has long been a subject of dispute among historians. He also determined the locale of the massacre.

Gottfried Hotz & Johannes Malthaner, “Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest: Two Representations of Border Conflicts Between Mexico and the Missouri in the Early Eighteenth (Civilization of the American Indian Series),” Hardcover, Very Good in Very Good dust jacket, First Edition; First Printing, University of Oklahoma Press, 1970, 9.13 X 6.57 inches, 248 pages.

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