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Snake Dance

A work made of bronze.

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  • A work made of bronze.


Modeled 1896, cast c. 1897


Hermon Atkins MacNeil
American, 1866–1947

About this artwork

The vast array of ethnographic material at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago piqued Hermon Atkins MacNeil’s interest in Native American culture, and he traveled to the West in 1895 to experience it firsthand. This sculpture depicts the Snake Dance, a Hopi prayer for rain in which priests run from the high mesa to the plains while grasping handfuls of snakes. MacNeil achieved a new level of dynamism that reflected the thrill of the spectacle, as described by his friend, the author Hamlin Garland: “They had rushed four miles at top speed, but they mounted the trail toward Walpi with incredible celerity. As they passed me their long hair waved up at the sides in a peculiar and beautiful fringe. I have never seen anything finer in the way of motion.”


Currently Off View


Arts of the Americas


Hermon Atkins MacNeil (Sculptor)


Snake Dance


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Modeled 1896




Signed on side of base: H. A. MAC NEIL. Sc.Fond.Nelli.ROMA Inscribed around side of base, front: THE RETURNING OF THE SNAKES Inscribed under center of the figure, on base: THE MOQUI / PRAYER.FOR.RAIN


H.: 57.2 cm (22 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Edward E. Ayer

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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