- Museum number
Portrait of an Indian Chief (possibly Wingina); with skin apron and on chest a copper gorget hung from neck
Watercolour and gold over graphite, touched with white (discoloured)
- Production date
Height: 262 millimetres
Width: 147 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. 21, pp. 138-39:
[NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]
This may be a portrait of the 'werowance' or chief of Roanoke whose name was Wingina. White has inscribed this drawing as a ‘cheife Herowan’ which is open to two interpretations: either he is a generic chief, or 'werowance' in their language or he is the chief of all the werowances. Harriot’s caption makes this figure representative of a generic type – the ‘cheefe men’ of the island and town of Roanoke. If he is intended to be Wingina, then he ought to have his identifying mark of four vertical arows on his back in the engraving – but we have indicated that the back views were probably the invention of the engraver and none of the engraved figures wears the mark.
It is unclear whether he shaves one or both sides of his central roach but part is allowed to grow and is caught in a knot at the nape. His decorated apron is double-fringed and covers him front and back. He does not paint or tattoo his body; instead his authority is clear from his jewellery – pearls, copper and smooth bone beads at his ears, wrist and neck. His main symbol of his status was the copper plaque he wore suspended from a thong around his neck. Copper was the Roanoke’s most prized commodity, as it reached them only through trade with tribes who lived much further inland and as far away as Lake Superior. Not knowing this, the English saw such decorations as this chief wore as evidence that the Algonquians had access to copper. The English had brought with them Joachim Ganz, a specialist from a distinguished family of Jewish metallurgists in Prague. He experimented with local copper that was found in very small amounts and succeeded in separating silver from it. But his findings indicated that silver and gold were not as available as they had hoped initially: they were very anxious to locate the source of the Algonquians’ supply and searched exhaustively in the area, without success.
On the first voyage, Arthur Barlowe wrote that Wingina was the ‘King’ of the country of Wingandacoa, which he believed included Secotan, his ‘chief town’ and the villages around it, as well as Dasemunkapeuc opposite Roanoke island where Wingina’s brother Granganimeo lived as the werowance. Barlowe wrote that all the towns or villages between, including Pomeiooc and Aquascogoc, were part of Wingina’s country and he was at war with Pomouik, which was furher inland on the Pamlico River (visible as Panauuaioc on the large printed map in 'America'). His allies were the Weapemeoc and Chawanoke on the north side of the Albermarle Sound. The country of Wingandacoa was referred to also as Secotan, naming the kingdom after the main town. In the seventeenth century this ‘kingdom’ was known as Machapunga and it was separate from Roanoke, which then consisted of the island and the mainland opposite only. More recently Quinn and later writers have argued that Secotan and Roanoke were already separate and even enemies in the sixteenth century and that Wingina was chief only of the latter – which is why this image with its caption indicating that he is from Roanoke has sometimes been identified as Wingina.
Both arguments are strong and we can deduce from them and from Harriot and White’s accounts only that there were different levels of werowance – some were the most powerful men in a village and others were the leaders of a confederation of villages or a tribe, which might have had a capital town. But the werowances of tribes did not remain only in their capital but moved about regularly from one of their villages to another. As we have already discussed, towns and villages were not necessarily permanently inhabited. Boundaries, both physical (land) and political (allies), were constantly changing. It was difficult for the English to understand these complicated relationships and it is not surprising that the identification of watercolours which were originally portraits of individuals were changed in the publication into generic types intended to represent different levels of society in different towns.
Later, as towns such as Aquascogoc were destroyed by the English through fire or by disease, tribes shifted, created new allegiances and merged with others; we will probably never understand fully the relations between villages and tribes as they stood when the English first arrived in 1584.
Engraved by Theodor De Bry in ‘America’. Pt I, pl. VII: 'A cheiff Lorde of Roanoac'
Lit.: LB 1(22); Quinn, pp. 98–101, 110–11, 438–9; ECM 46; PH&DBQ 50(a); PH 46; Feest 1978, pp. 272–3; Kupperman 1980, pp. 50–51, 74–5
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.65
1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 65
1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 65
1984 May 1-Dec 31, BL, Raleigh & Roanoke, no.75a
2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.21
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