Canadian Wild West photograph to sell for $70k

A rare and early photograph of a famed aboriginal Wild West performer is set to auction at Sotheby's New York for $70,000 - and could go some way to making-up for a cultural loss from Canada's past.

The portrait, from the dawning days of photography, was unknown to scholars until about 10 years ago, reports the Gazette newspaper.

The 150 year-old photograph depicts Maungwudaus (aka George Henry, his Christian name), a mid 19th century Ontario-born Ojibway interpreter who once performed native rituals on stage for Queen Victoria.

Maungwudaus posed in a number of portraits which are sought-after by historians - largely because of the unusual character of the painting's subject...

"It is a beautiful and dramatic portrait," said Sotheby's photograph expert Chris Mahoney.

"The overwhelming majority of daguerreotypes that were taken in the 1840s and 1850s were pedestrian, everyday portraits — nothing terribly special about them.

"Very few of them had the kind of magic this one has, or conveys the level of character that this one does," he said.

Hopes are high for the photograph's sale.

An especially sought-after 1851 Maungwudaus portrait - painted by Paul Kane - was controversially sold for $2.2m, one of the highest prices ever realised for a Canadian artwork.

The Kane portrait was sold to a US collector in 2003 by an auction house in Calgary - leading to cries that an important piece of Canada's cultural history had been lost.

Many Canadian art collectors will be hoping that the New York sale will be an opportunity to reclaim a unique and one-of-a-kind piece of the country's cultural past.

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