- Museum number
Arnaq and Nutaaq, Inuit from Frobisher Bay; woman in sealskin parka with baby in hood
Pen and brown ink and watercolour over graphite, touched with white (discoloured)
- Production date
Height: 223 millimetres
Width: 166 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. 36, pp. 168-9:
[NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]
[for White's other drawings of Inuit, see also 1906,0509.1.29]
English accounts indicate that the infant Nutaaq was about twelve months old when he and his mother were captured in August 1577. He was wounded in the arm by an arrow and, although the surgeon applied salves, she pulled them away and healed his arm by licking it. They were held in captivity with Kalicho, who had been abducted earlier, until Frobisher sailed to Bristol. Kalicho died probably from injuries caused when he was captured, and Arnaq died only a few days later from a disease which caused boils to erupt all over her skin. She was buried in the same churchyard in Bristol on 12 November and a nurse was hired to take Nutaaq to London to show him to the Queen but he died soon after arriving there and was buried in the same churchyard as the man captured on the previous voyage. The English were careful to record what they believed to be their names, but Arnaq probably meant ‘woman’ and Nutaaq ‘child’.
John White’s portrayals of Kalicho, Arnaq and Nutaaq are sympathetic and realistic, recording their individual features, including his facial hair and her tattoos (more easily seen in the offset), and fine details of their clothing, including the texture of the fur and the toggle of her thong harness used to support the baby in the back of the parka. Their parkas have long dorsal flaps at the back and are the type of summer sealskin ones recorded as worn by people in this area in the nineteenth century (the next reliable record available), with lighter patches representing local decoration rather than repairs. However, the prominent bellybuttons seem to be an added European Mannerist stylistic convention and the attachment of the hoods is problematic and may not all be correctly drawn. The trousers and skin books are similar to those found in the area until recently, and the bow and paddle are accurate but the arrow has been conventionalized.
The young William Camden saw Arnaq and Nataaq in London in 1577 and described them later in his Annals of Great Britain under Queen Elizabeth ‘with black hair, broad faces, flat noses, swarthy coloured, apparelled in sea-calves’ skins, the women painted about the eyes and balls of the cheek with a blue colour like the ancient Britons’, a comparison that is interesting in light of the images of the Picts and ancient Britons in de Bry.
Arnaq’s portrait, presumably with Nutaaq, was painted by Cornelius Ketel in Bristol and presented to the Queen and to the Cathay Company. It hung at Hampton Court in the seventeenth century but is now lost. There are many variations of drawings and prints of the four Inuit who were brought back to England by Frobisher in 1576 and 1577 and, particularly as the Ketel oil paintings have disappeared, it is nearly impossible to establish which images were drawn by artists from the life. The two Sloane versions are very similar to drawings by Adriaen Coenen (now in The Hague) and to several woodcuts published the following year in Germany. There are also drawings that might be related to others by Lucas de Heere that no longer exist, including an engraving of America by Phillipp Galle after Marc Gheeraerts the elder which seems to incorporate elements from de Heere’s watercolour of the 1576 captive and White’s of Arnaq and Nutaaq. The engraving was one of eight allegorical engravings representing the Elements and Continents, which were later used as the basis for stained glass windows at Gorhambury, commissioned either by Sir Francis Bacon or possibly by his mother, née Anne Cooke, some time before 1610.
Another version from Sloane album: 'Arnaq and Nutaaq, Inuit from Frobisher Bay, pen and brown ink with watercolour, 325 x 215 mm. Sloane album, SL 5270.11v (see LB 3(12); ECM 78 (11); PH & DBQ 116(b); PH fig. 42)
There is an 18th century copy in watercolour commissioned by Sloane in BL Add MS 5253, f. 11.
Lit.: LB 1(31); ECM 64; PH&DBQ 116(a); PH 64 and fig. 42; see Sturtevant and Quinn, pp. 76–112; and for the Gheeraerts print see Michael Archer, ‘“Beest, Bird or Flower”: Stained glass at Gorhambury House – I’, Country Life, 3 June 1976, pp. 1451–4, ‘“Elements and Continents”: Glass at Gorhambury, Hertfordshire – II’, Country Life, 10 June 1976, pp. 1562–4 (I am very grateful to Paula Henderson for this reference); and on Camden see Piggott, pp. 73–6
For a discussion of the various versions of the five watercolours of Inuit associated with John White, see the discussion on pp. 164-65 of K. Sloan, A New World, 2007, summarized in part above. Since that was published (it includes an article by C Feest on historical images of native people, including the Inuit on pp. 71-2) a new image associated with these images by White has been discovered in Merckliche Beschreibung sampt eygenlicher Abbildung eynes frembden unbekanten Volks... (1578, copy in Zurich Zentralbibliothek) which includes a description of Frobishers 3rd trip and an image very close to the Sloane album images - the woodcut includes the male and female figures from the front and an image of a third figure in a kayak behind them. Either these images in the John White Sloane album were the originals of the woodcut figures (unlikely) or these Sloane album images of Inuit are based on this woodcut.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1954 BM, Anglo-Flemish Art Under The Tudors, no.61
1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.92
1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 92
1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 92
1987/9 Dec-Jun, Museum of Mankind, 'Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North'
1999 Apr-Jul, Quebec, Canadian Museum of Civilization, 'Inuit and Englishmen:...'
2003 May-Sep, London, National Maritime Museum, 'Elizabeth 1'
2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.36
2007/8 Oct-Jan, Raleigh, North Caroline 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:...'
2020-2021 October-Feb, London, BM, Arctic: culture and climate
- 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