16th-century engraved image showing Native American noblewomen from Virginia and their manner of carrying their children.
This engraved image follows the John White painting made in Virginia, and was published by Theodor de Bry for his Grands Voyages, one of the most important travel accounts of the 16th century. The work is beautifully engraved and includes a nice view of the Virginian coastline.
In 1585, Governor John White, was part of a voyage from England to the Outer Banks of North Carolina under a plan of Sir Walter Raleigh to settle "Virginia." White was at Roanoke Island for about thirteen months before returning to England for more supplies. During this period he made a series of over seventy watercolor drawings of indigenous people, plants, and animals. The purpose of his drawings was to give those back home an accurate idea of the inhabitants and environment in the New World. The earliest images derived from White's original drawings were made in 1590, when Theodor De Bry made engravings from White's drawings to be printed in Thomas Hariot's account of the journey. Hariot, a mathematician, had also been part of the 1585 voyage.
The descriptive text below the plate reads:
In the town of Dasemunkepeuc, about four or five miles from Roanoke, the women dress and paint themselves in the same way as the women of Roanoke although they do not wear wreaths upon their heads nor do they paint their thighs with small pricks. They carry their children in a strange manner quite different from us. Whereas our women carry their children in their arms before their breasts, they take their sons by the right hand, carrying them on their backs, holding the left thigh in the left arm in a strange and unusual fashion as can be seen in the picture.
States and Editions
This is the second state of the engraving, with an additional bird in the background water near the canoe. This is the first Latin edition of the second state, with the title in a single line of text.
Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) was a prominent Flemish engraver and publisher best known for his engravings of the New World. Born in Liege, de Bry hailed from the portion of Flanders then controlled by Spain. The de Brys were a family of jewelers and engravers, and young Theodor was trained in those artisanal trades.
As a Lutheran, however, his life and livelihood were threatened when the Spanish Inquisition cracked down on non-Catholics. De Bry was banished and his goods seized in 1570. He fled to Strasbourg, where he studied under the Huguenot engraver Etienne Delaune. He also traveled to Antwerp, London, and Frankfurt, where he settled with his family.
In 1590, de Bry began to publish his Les Grands Voyages, which would eventually stretch to thirty volumes released by de Bry and his two sons. The volumes contained not only important engraved images of the New World, the first many had seen of the geographic novelties, but also several important maps. He also published a collection focused on India Orientalis. Les Grands Voyages was published in German, Latin, French, and English, extending de Bry’s fame and his view of the New World.