- Museum number
A wife of the 'werowance' or chief, Wingina; with tattoo or painted marks and jewellery
Watercolour over graphite, touched with white (discoloured) and bodycolour and gold
- Production date
Height: 234 millimetres
Width: 135 millimetres
- 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. 18, pp. 130-31:
[NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]
There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the identity of this woman. The inscription on this drawing states quite clearly that she is one of the wives of Wingina, who was the chief lord of Roanoke. His territory covered other towns, but it is not certain how far his control extended (see no. 20). It included Dasemunkapeuc on the mainland opposite the island and he moved frequently from one town to another, so his wife may have lived in any of them. The version of this drawing in the Sloane album is clearly labelled ‘Of Aquascogoc’, which was a village on the Pamlico River half-way between Secotan and Pomeiooc. Harriot’s caption for the engraving indicates that she is a generic type – a virgin of gentle parentage – and that they all dressed like the women of Secotan, with aprons that covered them front and back. Whether she is a virgin or the wife of a chief, she is certainly a young woman from the area around the Pamlico River area, and her clothes, tattoos, hair and jewellery all mark her as high-born or at least of wealthy status.
Harriot’s text in de Bry notes that such young women often modestly covered their breasts in this fashion but this may be reading European ideas of modesty into a gesture that meant something else to the tribe. However, there were conventions of posture in European portraiture for depicting women of status with their arms ‘self-enclosing’ and men of status with their legs crossed (European women’s legs were not visible) and the use of these gestures here may have been to indicate the woman’s high status. Harriot noted that the women had broad mouths and ‘reasonable fair black eyes’, close to his description of the women of Secotan. Her jewellery consists of pearls, copper beads and polished bones and she is decoratively painted and tattooed. The tattoos in the Sloane version are more extensive, covering areas under her eyes and on her chest. Her hair is knotted at the back with a double fringe over her forehead and, in the drawings, with a band on her forehead as well. She wears a fringed apron-skirt of skin, tied around her waist, and in the Sloane version it clearly covers her buttocks as well. The artist has added touches of gold to the fringe, perhaps indicating the presence of tiny copper beads.
The Sloane volume version of this drawing repeats the artist’s mistaken depiction of two right feet; this is corrected by the engraver, who reduces her body paint and tattoos even further and also provides a view from behind. This is probably the invention of the engraver – the back cloth should be tied, bound or rolled in some way at the back, as shown in the engraving for no. 18 and in the Sloane version, which lacks the upper fringe. On the whole, both engravers have altered the body types of the women: in the drawings they appear tall and well-proportioned, while the Mannerist training of the engravers led them to depicting tiny feet and muscular limbs. The engraver’s landscape background is an elaboration of White’s fishing and village scenes and reflects the final sentence of the text which describes their activities – ‘they delight also in seeinge fishe taken in the riuers’ – in the Westernized manner of a ‘pastime’, much as he had done mistakenly for the women of Secotan.
Engraved by G. Veen for De Bry, 'America', pt I, pl. VI: ‘A younge gentill woeman doughter of Secota’
Sloane album version:'Of Aquascogoc’, by or after John White, watercolour and bodycolour in Sloane album SL,5270.6r
Further 18th century watercolour copy in British Library Sloane Add MS 5253,17 (see LB 3(6); ECM 78, f. 6r; PH fig. 37)
Lit.: LB 1(18); Quinn, pp. 439–40; ECM 1960 47; PH&DBQ 51(a); PH 47; Kupperman 1980, pp. 50–51 and Kupperman 2000, p. 64
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.67
1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 67
1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 67
2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.18
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:...'
- Associated titles
Associated Title: America
- 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.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number