Friday, April 21, 2017

1600s Depictions of Native Americans - More Fantasy than Fact

Jacob van Meurs from Arnoldus Montanus (1625-1683) De Nieuwe en Onbekende Weereld (The New and Unknown World) 1671 - June 26, 1579, Sir Francis Drake being crowned by California Indians

For most of the 1600s & 1700s, few first-hand images of North American Indiginous People are known to have been created. Lacking contemporary documentation, European publishers often used illustrations that were imagined by local artists. European artists, who had seldom traveled farther than their easels, often were hired to illustrate written accounts of events in the New World without a realistic clue about how people actually lived & looked. And, so, they had to rely on European fantasy & generic landscapes to create images of America's Indiginous Peoples. For these representations, which tend to be exotic, the artists borrowed indiscriminately, mixing invented & actual details & interchanging characteristics of native groups from both American continents & from Africa.

In the 1670 edition of John Ogilby’s America, many images of Native Americans are based on the work of Arnoldus Montanus. However, at its time, the publication offered the most complete cartographic records to date of North & South America & was the most accurate compendium available of the New World. In 1671 the Amsterdam printer Jacob Meurs published De nieuwe en onbekende weereld; of Beschryving van america en't zuid-land, or America, by Arnoldus Montanus, a compilation in Dutch of historical accounts from North & South America. Montanus was a Jesuit & seemed to seek illustrations emphasizing the non-Christian, heathen character of Native American religion.