- Museum number
Iguana; seen slightly from above, facing to left
Watercolour over graphite, heightened with white (oxidised)
- Production date
Height: 144 millimetres
Width: 210 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.75, pp.222-23:
[NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]
'Cyclura cychlura' (Cuvier)
White’s image of the iguana is the first European watercolour of this West Indian species, which is found widely in the Bahamas where Grenville landed twice on the 1585 voyage out. The image has proved to be almost as popular for copying as White’s drawings of the North Carolina Algonquians. It was first reproduced by the engraver Baptista Boazio in his engraving of Cartagena to accompany Walter Bigges’s 'A summarie and true discourse of Sir Frances Drakes West Indian voyage' (London, 1589). There it was described as living ‘on the land in the woodes and desert places, and is caught by the sauage or Indian people who sell them to the Spaniards, they are of a sad greene collour, and their body of the bignes of a connie, they are eaten by the Indians and Spaniardes, and so likewise by vs for a very delicate meate, in the breeding time the femall is full of egges in great number, and they of all the rest are esteemed the most delicate’.
It has previously been thought that this borrowing by Drake’s artist, as well as the alligator and three fish by White which appeared in Boazio’s engravings, indicated that White had travelled back from Roanoke to England with Drake’s artist in July 1586. However, this was not necessary in order for White’s images to be borrowed by other artists; Raleigh might have lent his set of White’s drawings to Drake, or Hakluyt may have acted as the middle-man for this publication, as he did for de Bry and many others, recommending White’s drawings as a source to be copied for the more decorative and exotic elements of these printed plans of Drake’s victories.
Mark Catesby copied the drawing in Sloane’s volume (P&D SL,5270.13r; where it was copied with the alligator and appears more green and blue than White’s grey and pink original), for his image of ‘Lacertus indicus, Senembi & Iguana dictus. The Guana’ (Nat. Hist. II, pl. 64). Linnaeus cited Catesby for this species in his 'Systema naturae' (10th ed. 1758, vol. I, p. 207) but with a question mark, indicating that the drawing was not clear enough to be certain, and taxonomists today still have trouble identifying the species from White’s image.
The watercolour copy commissioned by Sloane before 1707 is in the British Library, Add MS 5272,22
Lit.: LB 1(73); Quinn, pp. 406–7 ECM 9; PH&DBQ 9(a); PH 9
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1952 Jul-Sep, BM, King's Lib, Raleigh/Hakluyt Quatercentenary, no.126
1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.9
1965 26 Feb- 14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 9
1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 9
1984 May 1- Dec 31, BL, Raleigh & Roanoke, no.83
1985 Mar-Jun, Raleigh, NC Mus of History, Raleigh & Roanoke, no. 79
1985 Jun-Aug, New York, Public Library, Raleigh & Roanoke, no. 79
2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.75
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:...'
- 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