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John White, Portrait of a member of the Secotan or the Pomeioc tribe
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THIS WATERCOLOUR PORTRAIT is one of the first images of a native North American to be made by a northern European artist. It was made by John White, who in 1585 accompanied the English expedition to colonize Roanoke, Virginia. He was employed as draughtsman-surveyor and his duties included making visual records of anything unknown in England, including plants, animals, birds and the native Americans, especially their costumes, weapons and ceremonies.

This is a portrait of a member of one of the two Algonquian tribes, the Secotan and the Pomeioc, who lived in what is now Virginia and North Carolina. White’s inscription tells us the purpose of this body decoration and costume: ‘The manner of their attire and painting them selves when they goe to their generall huntings, or at theire solemne feasts’.

John White, Portrait of a member of the Secotan or the Pomeioc tribe

From North America, c. ad 1585-93
Ht 27.4 cm

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