Russell grew up admiring the tales about William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody and his western exploits, but one story became closely associated with both the reality and mythology that surrounded the great western showman; his duel with Yellow Hair (or, as his name has been erroneously translated, “Yellow Hand”). Cody joined the Fifth Cavalry as a scout in the summer of 1876, just weeks after the death of General George Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn—also known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass. Cody’s regiment came upon a party of Cheyenne and following an exchange of rifle fire, Cody shot and then scalped Yellow Hair, waving his war trophy over his head, and reportedly crying, “The first scalp for Custer.” Painted in the same year Cody died, Russell departs from the common depictions of the scene which showed Cody holding up the warrior’s scalp and war bonnet for show, softening the grim ending by portraying the duel.
Buffalo Bill’s Duel With Yellowhand
Artist: Charles M. Russell Year Completed: 1917 Medium: Oil on canvas Dimensions: 29.875 x 47.875 inches