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Capturing a Moment in Time, California, November 22, 1875

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Jules Tavernier, Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, California, 1878. Oil on canvas, 48 x 72 1/4 in. (121.9 x 183.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Marguerite and Frank A. Cosgrove Jr. Fund, 2016, 2016.135

This program explores the exceptional historical event captured by Jules Tavernier through the biographies of the participants and the moment in time chronicled in his painting, Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, California. The painting depicts an exceptional cultural interaction between California Indians in their homelands and outsiders—settlers and business investors—on November 22, 1875. Among the more than one hundred Pomo community members of all ages taking part in the ceremony are three visitors: Mexican-born Tiburcio Parrott y Ochoa, a San Francisco banker and patron of Tavernier who commissioned the painting; his Parisian business partner, Baron Edmond de Rothschild; and French military officer Comte Gabriel Louis de Turenne d’Aynac, who was traveling with Rothschild. Parrott was the new owner and operator of the Sulphur Bank Quicksilver Mining Company on Elem ancestral lands. A panel of speakers will bring the biographies and stories together for a revealing view of the painting and California history. 

This event is part of Virtual Wednesdays, a weekly YouTube broadcast bringing you unique viewpoints exploring diversity, resilience, and creative spirit in the arts as we aim to reframe our exhibitions and collections. View upcoming Virtual Wednesdays programs.

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About the Exhibition

Upon its completion in 1878, Jules Tavernier’s Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, California—which depicts a ceremonial dance (mfom Xe) of the Elem Pomo in an underground roundhouse (Xe-xwan) at Clear Lake (Xa’btin)—was hailed in a San Francisco newspaper as “by far the most remarkable picture ever painted on the Pacific Coast.” The French-born artist’s painting now returns to California for the first time in more than 140 years as the central focus of the Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo exhibition at the de Young. The exhibition includes more than a dozen paintings, watercolors, prints, and photographs by Jules Tavernier (1844–1889) and puts forth a new interpretation of his career masterwork and his other compositions of the Western United States by offering a multiplicity of voices and perspectives, including those of Pomo cultural leaders and curators. 

Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, California chronicles a cultural interaction on November 22, 1875, between California Indians in their homelands and outsiders associated with the Sulphur Bank Quicksilver Mining Company operating on Elem ancestral lands. In the ensuing years, the mine would cause widespread mercury contamination of the lake, with grave and long-lasting repercussions for the Elem community. In this exhibition, presented alongside Tavernier’s Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, California and other major works are more than fifty historic and contemporary Pomo baskets and regalia pieces that celebrate the enduring artistry and resiliency of the Pomo artists over several generations and highlight their continued cultural presence in their homelands today. 

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Free, public event. No pre-registration is required. Watch on our YouTube channel.

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