John White, The manner of their attire and painting them selves ..., a watercolour

North America, about AD 1585-93

This is a portrait of a member of one of the two Algonquian tribes, the Secotan and the Pomeiooc, who lived in what is now Virginia and North Carolina. White's inscription tells us the purpose of this body decoration and costume: 'The manner of their attire and painting them selves when they goe to their generall huntings, or at theire solemne feasts'.

The man's body is painted, not tattooed, as for a special occasion. He wears feathers in his hair, copper beads or pearls around his neck and right wrist. On his left wrist is a band or bracelet to protect his arm when shooting arrows. He holds a six foot bow in his left hand, the quiver made of rushes slung across his back. The quiver is supported by a puma's tail which hangs between the man's legs. Around his waist is a deerskin apron skirt or kilt. His head is almost entirely shaved, except for a crest of hair, or roach, a hairstyle once in wide use in Native North America.

The artist has shown the man in a formal pose, similar to poses seen in European portraits of the late sixteenth century, underlining the importance of the man and the occassion.

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More information


P. Hulton and D.B. Quinn (eds), The American drawings of John (University of North Carolina Press and London, The British Museum Press, 1964)

M. Jacobs, The painted voyage: art, trave (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

P. Hulton, America 1585: the complete dra (London, The British Museum Press and University of North Carolina Press, 1985)


Height: 263.000 mm
Width: 150.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1906-5-9-1(12)



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