Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant), c. 1807
German, Canadian, 2
oil on canvas
61.8 x 46.1 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 5777)
It was possibly the famous Mohawk chief's death that prompted William Berczy to paint this portrait, which is unique in a number of ways. It shows the model standing in a classically inspired pose, with the head in three-quarter profile. The outstretched arm evokes imperial authority, while the pleats in the brilliant red blanket echo the folds of a toga. Although the figure appears monumental - an effect emphasized by the low horizon line - each detail of the costume has been rendered with painstaking, almost documentary precision. Showing the chief against the backdrop of an imaginary landscape, the image has been executed in a limited but subtle range of colours dominated by red and green.