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print study / drawing

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    A wife of an Indian 'werowance' or chief of Pomeiooc, and her daughter; woman with tattoos or painted marks carrying gourd vessel, child carrying contemporary English doll Watercolour over graphite, touched with bodycolour, white (altered) and gold

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1585-1593
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 263 millimetres
    • Width: 149 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed in brown ink: ‘A cheife Herowans wyfe of Pomeoc . / and her daughter of the age of .8. or. / 10. yeares .’
  • Curator's comments

    For an introduction to this group of drawings by John White and a list of abbreviations used in the Literature at the end, see curatorial comment for 1906,0509.1.1, the title page inscription to the album.

    The following text is taken from K. Sloan, 'A New World: England's First View of America' (London, BM Publications, 2006), no. 14, pp. 122-23:
    [NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]

    This watercolour, and even more so the engraving after it, was to serve as a reminder for the readers in England and Europe that there was money to be made by investing in these voyages of plantation, not just from the crops that might be grown or the minerals that might be found but also from the new commercial market the people of Virginia provided. In 1585, after the Amadas and Barlowe exploratory expedition to Virginia, Raleigh encouraged his friend the lawyer Richard Hakluyt to write a tract which circulated in manuscript to publicize his next venture and drum up support for it. In these Inducements to the liking of the Voyage intended towards Virginia, Hakluyt argued that the Indian trade would provide ‘ample vent of the labour of our poor people at home, by sale of hats, bonnets, knives, fish-hooks, copper kettles, beads, looking-glasses, bugles & a thousand kinds of other wrought wares’ (p. 25). Glass beads, including bugles, which were tube-shaped glass beads sewn onto dress etc. for ornament, were eventually to become one of the main staples for trade with Indians. Glass beads were highly valued by Indians, who knew the difficulty of making shell beads and valued them for their uses as badges of rank, for carrying messages and especially for their spiritual meaning. Their value, like that of pearls for example, was determined in part by the difficulty of appropriation, which was different on both sides of the Atlantic.

    In the caption to his very first image of Virginia, depicting the coastline of Roanoke and the first meeting of the English with the Indians, Harriot recorded: ‘We offred the[m] of our wares, as glasses, kniues, babies, and other trifles, which wee thougt they delighted in’. Explaining the engraving of this image, Harriot wrote that the young girls were ‘greatlye Diligted with puppetts, and babes which wear brought oute of England’. The girl in White’s image shows her mother the ‘babe’ or doll she has been given, a fully dressed doll of an expensive type available only to wealthy English children, not the cheap wooden ‘Bartholomew babe’ or tin variety that most children in London would have had to play with. No doubt the cheaper variety was mainly what was traded but this was the daughter of a chief and her gift would have been of an appropriate status. White used gold and silver on the dress of the doll and it is shown facing the viewer, its status obvious. In the drawing the child is also showing her mother her necklace, which must also have been a gift – it is red and of double strands with a gold or copper pendant, not similar to any of the Indian necklaces shown in the other images which were all stated to be of pearl, shell, copper or bone. No mention of it was made in the caption because the pendant had disappeared in the engraving where the child has grown in size and waves a European rattle instead. Red was a common colour for bugles – can the red necklace possibly be the earliest representation of glass beads in America, given to an Indian child as a plaything by the English but bearing a deeper symbolic meaning for the Indians?

    The caption explains that she is eight to ten years of age and the engraver has made her larger than in White’s watercolour where, in spite of the inscription, she is the size of a four- or five-year-old. She wears a moss or milkweed pad held by a cord, apparently with an unseen girdle down the back, and has a tattoo or paint on one cheek. Her mother has a decorated headband and facial, neck and arm tattoos and a fringed apron worn high and long, covering the front only, and decorated with what appear to be pearls but may be shells. She is a woman of high status, the wife of a werowance, and therefore wears several strands of copper, pearl or bone necklaces. Harriot notes that she carried her arm in them, certainly a non-European gesture which may have been particular to this tribe and is not mentioned elsewhere. Her hollowed gourd was used to carry ‘some kinde of pleasant liquor’; in fact such gourds were generally used to carry water and its presence reinforces the fact that, even as the wife of a chief, she was expected to take part in women’s work in the town.

    Engraved by Theodor de Bry in ‘America’ Pt. 1, Pl.VIII: 'A cheiff Ladye of Pomeiooc'

    Lit.: LB 1(14); Quinn, pp. 417–18; ECM 33; PH&DBQ 35(a); PH 33


  • Bibliography

    • Binyon 1898-1907 1(14) bibliographic details
    • Sloan 2007 14 bibliographic details
    • Croft-Murray 1960 33 bibliographic details
    • Hulton & Quinn 1964 35(a) bibliographic details
    • Coe 1977 p. 235, 675 bibliographic details
    • Bate & Thornton 2012 p. 240, fig. 10 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British Roy PI)

  • Exhibition history

    1934 BM, Exhibition of English Art, no.317 1952 Jul-Sep, BM, King's Lib, Raleigh/Hakluyt Quatercentenary, no.118
    1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.37
    1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 37
    1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 37
    1976/7 Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gall, 2000 Years N American Indian Art 1984 May 1- Dec 31, BL, Raleigh & Roanoke, no.41
    1985 Mar-Jun, Raleigh, NC Mus of History, Raleigh & Roanoke, no. 50
    1985 Jun-Aug, New York, Public Library, Raleigh & Roanoke, no. 50 2003 May-Sep, London, National Maritime Museum, 'Elizabeth 1'
    2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.14
    2007/8 Oct-Jan, Raleigh, North Carolina Mus of History, 'A New World:...'
    2008 Mar-Jun, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, 'A New World:...'
    2008 Jul-Oct, Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, 'A New World:...'

  • Subjects

  • Associated titles

    • Associated Title: America
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    The provenance given above refers to the moment when the album of drawings connected with John White was purchased by the Department of Manuscripts in what is now the British Library. The album was transferred to the Department of Prints and Drawings in 1906, where it was assigned new register numbers.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


An Indian woman and child of Pomeiooc; woman with tattoos or painted marks carrying gourd vessel, child carrying contemporary English doll Watercolour over graphite, touched with white

An Indian woman and child of Pomeiooc; woman with tattoos or painted marks carrying gourd vessel, child carrying contemporary English doll Watercolour over graphite, touched with white

Image description



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