In 1590, Theodore de Bry reprinted Thomas Hariot's A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia. The text was illustrated with copper-plate engravings by de Bry and his associate, Gysbert van Veen, based on paintings by John White. The engravings signed by van Veen are stylistically identical to those signed by de Bry.( Ironically, however, de Bry never went to Virginia, forcing us to question the accuracy of his work.)The captions that accompany each engraving in the book are usually credited to Thomas Hariot.
Of the nineteen or so extant paintings by John White related to Virginia Indians, all are represented in the de Bry engravings. Ten are portrait studies of one or two figures, and three are landscapes. The de Bry engravings follow the White watercolors very closely in some aspects and differ in others. White and de Bry were probably each responsible for some of the differences. It could well have been White—when he painted the set of copies for de Bry—who placed his figures into landscapes and showed them in both front and back views. From the hands of de Bry and van Veen, however, came the evolution from the mannered yet casual postures of the Indians in White's originals, to the sculpture-like poses in the engravings, with muscular physiques, small hands and feet, and Europeanized faces.
Keep in mind: When artists were hired to illustrate written accounts of events in Virginia, they did not aim to make realistic representations, but to vivify the narratives. Their engravings used European pictorial conventions and generic landscapes, and when the artists borrowed details from other prints, those details sometimes were authentic but often not.
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