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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Kalicho, an Inuk from Frobisher bay; wearing sealskin suit, holding a bow Pen and brown ink and watercolour over graphite, touched with white (oxidised)

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Ethnic name

  • Date

    • 1585-1593
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 225 millimetres
    • Width: 163 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed in graphite: "29"
  • 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), pp. 164-7:
    [NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]


    There are six watercolours of Nugumiut Inuit from Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island that are associated with John White: two of them, of the man Kalicho (no. 29) and the woman Arnaq and her child Nutaaq (no. 30), are by John White and four are from the Sloane volume of watercolours associated with him (SL,5270.11r,5v,11v, 12).

    Martin Frobisher made three visits to Baffin Island in his exploration of Meta Incognita, the ‘unknown boundary’ between Europe, Greenland, America and Asia. The first was in 1576 to find the North-west Passage to Cathay where new markets and goods beckoned for the merchants of London. John Dee provided advice on routes, Humphrey Cole supplied the instruments, and the Queen and Lord Burghley their support. Frobisher was distrustful of the Inuit from the time he encountered them on what is now Frobisher Bay, but had been trading with them and obtaining advice about a passage through the islands when five of his men disobeyed orders and rowed out of sight and were not seen again. Frobisher then needed captives to exchange for his men and boat but succeeded only in getting close to one Inuit who he plucked with his kayak from the sea after enticing him close to the ship. He returned to England with what he believed to be gold and ‘this new prey (which was a sufficient witness of the captain’s far and tedious travel towards the unknown parts of the world, as did well appear by this strange infidel, whose like was never seen, read, nor heard of before, and whose language was neither known nor understood of any)’ (George Best, 1578). Frobisher returned to London with this ‘strannge man & his Bote, which was such a wonder vnto th[e] whole City, & to the rest of the Realm that heard of yt, as seemed neuer to have happened the like great matter to any mans knowledge’ (Michael Lok). He died shortly afterwards, probably from a European disease to which he had no resistance, but not before his ‘counterfeit’ had been ‘drawn, with his boat, and other furniture both as he was in his own, and also in English apparel’. He was buried in St Olave’s Churchyard in London. There are payments to Cornelis check spelling Ketel, a Flemish artist living in London, for large and small, full-length and portrait, ‘pictures’ of the Inuit man, some for the Queen and the Cathay Company, but none survives. However, Lucas de Heere was in London at this time, and his watercolour of the man is in his album in Ghent, but it is not certain whether it was drawn from life.

    Frobisher gained a great deal of celebrity and support from the fame of the Inuk and ‘was called to the Court and greatly embraced and liked of the best.’ On the second voyage he immediately attempted to capture more Inuit in order find the men he had lost the previous year. Soon after they landed, one man, Kalicho, was caught through trickery (see below). Later an old woman and a young one with her infant who had been wounded in the arm were taken when they were found hiding because they could not run after a skirmish at a place described as Bloody Point, near York Sound on the south shore of Frobisher Bay, probably the event described in the watercolour illustrated here. The landscape is apparently correct for Frobisher Bay, and other details, such as the royal ensign, kayaks, tents, ice floes and Inuit are accurate. The accounts indicate that there were about sixteen to eighteen Inuit in an umiak (which carried many people) and a kayak and there about thirty to forty Englishmen in two pinnaces. There is no sign here of the umiak or the second pinnace. One Englishman was wounded and five or six Inuit killed, three by drowning after jumping off a cliff to avoid capture after being wounded. The old woman was released after having her shoes pulled off ‘to see if she were cloven footed’ but the man and the woman and child (who were not related to the man) were brought back to England and were drawn by John White.

    The fact that the portraits of the three Inuit might easily have been drawn in Bristol, and that the skirmish drawing is from the Sloane volume (which came from White’s descendants but is generally believed to consist of copies after White’s originals), and that it could have been drawn by a talented artist from a description given in the accounts or by one of the unnamed gentlemen-companions who had been there, all indicate that there still must remain some doubt whether White accompanied Frobisher on this voyage.

    Sloane album drawing: 'The skirmish at Bloody Point', pen and grey ink with watercolour and bodycolour, 315 x 266 mm. Sloane album, P&D SL 5270.12 (See LB 3(13); ECM 78(12); Quinn 464; PH & DBQ 117(a); PH fig. 43; copy in BL Add MS 5253, fo.8)

    Lit.: For Frobisher and the Inuit he brought back see especially Sturtevant and Quin, pp. 61–140; see also W. A. Kenyon, Tokens of Possession: The Northern Voyages of Martin Frobisher, Toronto, 1975, and Morison, pp. 516–31

    Cat. no. 35 Kalicho, an Inuk from Frobisher Bay

    Although we cannot condone or understand such behaviour today, living people were ‘collected as evidence, trophies, and objects of curiosity’ in sixteenth-century Europe and later (Sturtevant and Quinn, p. 69). Instead of having information about Inuit of this date as a result of observation and co-operation, our only knowledge of them today comes as the result of violence, coercion and curiosity. Kalicho was caught on Hall Island at the northern opening of Frobisher Bay on 19 July 1577 after Frobisher had enticed him and another man to come and trade with them. He wanted to capture and bring two men on board in order to give trade items to one and return him to act as an advocate of future trade with the English and to keep the other as an interpreter. But the two men had escaped before getting to the boat and Kalicho was recaptured with a ‘Cornish trick’ by a wrestler who broke his ribs (after he died he was found to have an infected collapsed lung and an unspecified head wound). He was kept captive with the woman Arnaq and her infant who were captured later (no. 30). His name was recorded by the English at the time and is now thought possibly to have been Kaliksaq, which means ‘hauling something’.

    The Inuit were carefully observed by the English, who recorded their social relations with each other, their courtesy and modesty with each other, and particularly their food, as they were not able to digest English food and the English accepted food for them from Inuit on shore. They were especially fascinated by the fact that they ate their meat ‘raw’ (although it may have been merely less cooked than the English were accustomed to) and that they ate ‘carrion’ – meat and fish hung longer than the English would eat.

    On 9 October, after they arrived in Bristol, Kalicho displayed his skill in the kayak and killed two ducks with his ‘dart’ on the River Avon before the mayor and others. He gave other displays and carried his kayak on his back through the city, and learnt a few phrases of English before a doctor was called to treat him for his shortness of breath, deafness and head pains. He died early in November, an autopsy was performed and he was buried on the 8th in St Stephen’s Church in Bristol. Arnaq was taken forcibly to watch his burial to prove to her that the English did not practise sacrifice or cannibalism, as the Inuit were believed to do.

    At some point he and Arnaq were drawn by John White in detail that provides us with a great deal of information about the Inuit in Frobisher Bay at this time. The Sloane volume includes two further views of him from the front and the back with a bow, paddle and arrow which are certainly not by the same artist and appear to be copies after different originals by White or another, unknown, artist.

    Two versions in Sloane album: Kalicho, an Inuit from Frobisher Bay, see from front and from rear, pen and brown ink with watercolour, 330 x 217 mm. Sloane album, SL 5270.11r and 5 v (see LB 3(11,10); ECM 78(11); PH & DBQ 114(b), 115(a); PH fig. 40, 41)
    There are two18th century copies in watercolour commissioned by Sloane in BL Add MS 5253, fo.9, 10

    Lit.: LB 1(30); Quinn, pp. 463–4; ECM 63; PH&DBQ 114(a); PH 63 and figs 40–41; see Sturtevant and Quinn, pp. 76–112; for an account of Kalicho’s injuries see Sir James Watt and Ann Savours, ‘The captured “Countrey People”: Their depiction and medical history’, in Symons, pp. 553–62


  • Bibliography

    • Binyon 1898-1907 1(30) bibliographic details
    • Hulton & Quinn 1964 114(a) bibliographic details
    • Sloan 2007 35 bibliographic details
    • Croft-Murray 1960 63 bibliographic details
    • Glenbow 1987a fig.160, p.177 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British Roy PI)

  • Exhibition history

    1954 BM, Anglo-Flemish Art Under The Tudors, no. 60 1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.90
    1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 90
    1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 90
    1976/7 Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gall, 2000 Years N American Indian Art 1987/9 Dec-Jun, Museum of Mankind, 'Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North'
    1999 Apr-Jul, Quebec, Canadian Mus of Civilization, Inuit and Englishmen 2000 1 Dec-Feb, BM Great Court, 'Human Image'
    2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.35
    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 places

  • 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 Eskimo man; with bow Pen and brown ink and watercolour over graphite, touched with white (oxidised)

An Eskimo man; with bow Pen and brown ink and watercolour over graphite, touched with white (oxidised)

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