Wednesday, April 19, 2017

1600s Depictions of Native Americans - More Fantasy than Fact

The Abduction of Pocahontas By Johann Theodore de Bry after Georg Keller 1619

By Johann Theodore de Bry after Georg Keller
Engraving from book page, 1619
Plate 7 from America, Part 10

The artist has merged events of 1613 along the Potomac River, shown in the foreground, with events of 1614 on the York River, shown in the background. At lower left, Pocahontas (center) is deceived by Iopassus, holding his reward of a "small Copper kettle," & Iopassus's wife, who feigns "counterfeit tears." After Pocahontas consents to accompany them onto the English ship, they prepare to enter the boat, & then they sit at supper aboard ship, "merry on all hands." The events in the background take place following the capture of Pocahontas, & after an English offer to exchange her for captives & weapons. In March 1614, having received only a partial response from Powhatan, English ships move up the York River. Met with "great bravado" & then flights of arrows, the English attack & burn an Indian village.

In 1617 the German printer Abelius engaged the artist Georg Keller (1568-1634). to illustrate his translation of Ralph Hamor's A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia. Hamor's original 1615 London edition had no pictures to copy, so Keller created imaginary scenes, drawn from descriptions in the written narrative. Some details in the pictures derive from the 1590 de Bry prints, but not all. Johann Theodore de Bry, the son & successor of Theodore, issued his translation of Hamor's Present State of Virginia in 1618, in America. For illustration, de Bry simply copied Keller's invented pictures.