Two Women with Figure in an Infant Carrier n.d.
Zacharie Vincent, Two Women with Figure in an Infant Carrier, n.d.
Charcoal on paper, 28.5 x 39.5 cm
Château Ramezay, Montreal
The upright figure in the centre of this composition, strapped to a cradleboard, is the size of an adult. Two women, one on either side, offer him unidentified objects. This staging appears to show the initiation rite for the accession of a new chief.
The man in the infant carrier is propped against a tree—probably a tamarack, the symbol of immortality owing to its needles that fall every winter and reappear in the spring. All of the imagery in this drawing seems to relate to the ancestral bonds that unite the community with the Tree of Life, or Tree of Peace, a central symbol in Huron culture and an important part of the ceremonies marking the succession of a new chief. Just as the expression “the mast has fallen” traditionally meant the death of a chief, to “raise the tree” meant the installation of a new chief in his place.
The tree that supports the infant carrier in Vincent’s work may also symbolize the ritual rebirth of the candidate and thus his transformation, in accordance with the underlying religious philosophy of the initiation. It could even be suggested that this work belongs with the self-portraits, and that the artist was seeking to affirm his own spiritual immortality as a chief—a status he kept even after he no longer held the position.