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The French Observe Ceremonies Performed by Florida Indians Before Going on an Expedition Against the Enemy

The view was engraved to illustrate René de Laudonnière's making of a treaty with the great Timacua [Timucua] chief, Saturiova. Here Saturiova throws water on his soldiers urging them to spill the enemy's blood as he has spilled the water. With the other bucket he threw water on the fire and urging his soldiers to extinguish their enemies as he has extinguished the fire.

The text translates as follows:

This text appears to be an account of interactions between the French and a native Floridian tribe, likely in the 16th century during French attempts to establish a foothold in Florida. Here's a translation to English:

In a concise account of a fruitful voyage, it was said that the French contracted an alliance and friendship with Saturioua, a powerful king of their neighbors, so that they might build a fortress in his territory. They promised to regard the friends of the king as their own friends, and his enemies as their enemies, and also offered to provide some soldiers when the occasion arose. About three months after this alliance was made, the king sent ambassadors to Laudonniere, requesting soldiers according to their agreement, because he wished to wage war against his enemies. Laudonniere, having dispatched Caillio the Centurion to the king with some soldiers, kindly showed that he could not send soldiers at that time, as he hoped he would reconcile the king with his enemy. The king, angered by this response (for he could not delay his expedition, having gathered necessary provisions and having already summoned neighboring kings for support), immediately began his preparations.

So, in the presence of those sent by Laudonniere, the king summoned his soldiers, who were adorned according to Indian custom with feathers and other things, to the plain. Neighboring kings surrounded him in a circle, leaving the king in the middle. Then, having kindled a pyre to his left, and placing two large vessels filled with water to his right, the king, as if struck by anger, twisted his eyes, murmured something in his throat, and made various gestures, occasionally letting out terrible screams. The soldiers echoed these screams, striking their hips with the noise of their weapons. The king then, taking a wooden lance, turned reverently to the Sun, asking it for victory over his enemies, and just as he was about to sprinkle the water which he had drawn with the wooden lance, he hoped he could shed the blood of his enemies. With great force, he threw the water into the air, which then fell on his soldiers, and said, 'As I did with this water, I wish that you can do the same with the blood of your enemies.' Having poured the water from the other vessel onto the fire, he said, 'May you extinguish your enemies this way, and be able to bring back their scalps.' After this, they rose and set out on their expedition both by land and river.

The engravings published by Theodor de Bry in his Grand Voyages (1591), based upon watercolor illustrations made by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, are the earliest known European depictions of Native Americans in what is now known as the United States. Le Moyne, a member of the short-lived French colony known as Fort Caroline founded by Huguenot explorer Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere (ca. 1529-1574), based the watercolors on his experiences in Florida in the 1560s. De Bry later published Le Moyne's work, along with other illustrations of the New World, as part of an effort to encourage European colonization in the Americas. Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, an illustrator and explorer, sailed with René de Laudonnière on the 1564 Huguenot expedition to Florida. Laudonnière set up Fort Caroline on the St. John's River in 1564, but the settlement was destroyed by the Spanish army under Pedro Menendez de Aviles.

De Bry's Engravings of the Florida Indians

For his Grands Voyages, De Bry engraved 42 plates based Le Moyne's original sketches made during the French Huguenot voyage to the Florida Peninsula. De Bry's renderings of Florida and its inhabitants are today the earliest known printed European images of Native Americans in present-day Florida, known as the Timucua Indians.

The images attempt to convey a number of messages about the land and its peoples. For example, some of the plates have been suggested to represent the ability of the Timucua to obey authority and that they are less sophisticated than the Europeans. This was argued to make them ideal candidates for French Huegonot colonization, to be used in conflicts against Catholic Spain.

The accuracy of De Bry's depictions have sometimes been called into question. Some of the engravings do not quite match what became known about the Timucua by later French explorers, and some engravings possess out-of-place features, such as the appearance of a Pacific nautilus rather than a Florida whelk shell. However, it is believed that the core of the imagery is correct. For example, the depiction of Timucuan body art, otherwise unknown to Europeans at the time, suggest that De Bry's depictions were grounded in reality.

Theodor De Bry Biography

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.