Accepted Paper:

"Taken from Life": The Menominee Drawings of Antoine Marie Gachet  


Sylvia Kasprycki (Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the ethnographic content of a corpus of drawings produced by the Capuchin Antoine Marie Gachet on the Menominee Reservation between 1859 and 1862. In particular, it explores the complex relations between these visual records, Gachet's texts, and the objects he collected.

Paper long abstract:

This paper assesses the ethnographic information provided by a series of about forty-five drawings produced by the Swiss Capuchin missionary Antoine Marie Gachet during his sojourn on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin between 1859 and 1862. Only recently rediscovered, these visual documents add a fascinating dimension to the already impressive ethnographic record left by Gachet: a published account (1890), a collection of objects (donated in 1860 to the museum of his hometown Fribourg), and several linguistic works, including a Menominee grammar.

Executed in pencil and watercolor in a naive but lovingly detailed manner, the drawings depict traditional customs, economic pursuits, and perhaps most impressively the practice of Native Christianity. In addition, carefully labeled tables of objects---apparently illustrated as "type specimens" much in the same way that he recorded samples of fauna and flora---attest to Gachet's scholarly ambition in the documentation of cultural phenomena.

Focusing on the complex relations and interdependencies between the different kinds of sources---texts, images, and objects---this paper attempts to delineate the specific assumptions and conventions of representation that (pre)determined verbal and visual expressions as well as the selection of artifacts, and to evaluate their respective merits, shortcomings, and potential for the production of anthropological knowledge. In the present case, it will be argued that the drawings may provide a link between written observations and actual objects by showing the latter in social interaction.

Panel P002
Art as Ethnography/Ethnography as Art