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Native American history Portraits

The three works chosen represent a theme of how these paintings and related works of the artists help forge stereotypes on the indigenous people of America as wild man and woman and cannibals. These portraits depict the Native American history, its traditions, and cultures. It also helped change the mindsets of the people regarding American Indians. The Native American history is intricate due to the varied geographical and traditional upbringings of the people involved. Expectedly, the Native American farmers residing in the stratified communities, like the Natchez, interacted with Europeans differently as compared to those who were dependent on hunting and congregation, like the Apache. Similarly, Spanish conquistadors[1] were involved in a primarily diverse type of foreign inventiveness as compared to their complements from England or France.

The views and perceptions of the native persons, particularly those who were present during the period of 15th till 19th centuries, have continued in an inscribed form less frequently than is optimal for the historian. Since these accounts are very occasional, those concerned with the Native American historical account also conclude results from customary arts, common writings, urban myths, archaeology, and various other ways. Many explorers and colonials noticed and gave a description of the way of life of indigenous people of America; how they looked like, their characteristics and manner of leading their lives. Christopher Columbus who’s known for discovering America found people who were handsome and had skins which were neither white nor black. There were people known as Tainos or Arawaks who were naked[2] and neither had cities nor any weapons or idols. Caribs were similar to Tainos in the matter of appearance and cultural aspects but different in the way of speaking, and attempts of war on neighbors and they eat the captured ones. These descriptions of Columbus of the innocent and weak people and also the violent cannibals created a contradiction that outlined majority of the European categorizations of the Native Americans for the coming five centuries and more.

Regardless of the portrayal which differentiated clearly among Europeans and misclassified by naming “Indians” at the inception of colonization. Many Europeans thought that the misconception could be altered. Robert Fabian believed that three savage men belonging from northeastern North America came to England in the period of 1490s “in their deportment like to brute beasts,” but after two years he “could not distinguish [them] from Englishmen.” Categorizations of such kind related to the indigenous people and communities vindicated colonization and enslavement. Accounts of cannibalism and human sacrifice which Catholic and Protestant intruders leveled against several residents of America were particularly critical. The Indians were completely human, but only change would let them achieve their human prospective.

Many writers enlarged the concept of Indians as primarily scarce, but proficient of being raised to civility and Christianity. A sequence of designs made by Theodor de Bry depicts the outlooks of these indigenous people of America. Theodor de Bry’s Illustration from America Tertia Pars 1592 is a portrayal of cannibalism associated with the Americans. Collection of De Bry’s work transformed European’s viewpoints regarding the outlook of the Native Americans. The portraits created by him helped establish an image of American savagery that would continue to stay in several European customs and cultures for generations. Michael Alexander says, “De Bry’s work brought to the European public the first realistic visualization of the exotic world opened up across the Atlantic by the explorers, conquerors, and settlers.” Britain’s civilization was the result of The Roman Empire which would then be transferred to North America. The ethnographic imageries of native people flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, as the Protestant Reformation extended regal oppositions in the Americans. Barbarians apparently overcame few verses and depended on the symbol, which described stereotypes of Indians’ verbal deficiency and expressiveness. With the passage of time, the creation of fresh and more accurate symbols paved the way for more logical thinking and, hence, development in the sciences and arts; however, accuracy came at the value of imagery in language and inscription.

The depictions of the native people through imagery accompanying the initial published information by Christopher Columbus did not imitate actual social dissimilarities among the Europeans and native people but instead depended on reused pictures that settled upon their apparent aggressive nature and cannibalistic propensities. Boisterous groups of rough, cartoonish, and cruel wild men wearing feathered skirts rapidly solidified into the typical iconography for interpreting freshly revealed persons, irrespective of where they were originated.

The woodcut frieze of Hans Burgkmair depicts the Africans and Indians step towards ethnography in the depiction of non-Europeans, partially the outcome of the artist’s chance to make records by practical confirmation. Correspondingly significant was Burgkmair’s disclosure to a humanist milieu in Augsburg that systematized his graphic discernment. A different interpretation of civilization changed from pictorial observations that attempted to grasp the exactitude of the surrounding world. Hans Burgkmair’s portrait shows the early communal contribution of New World Indians to European onlookers. The barbarian wearing a skirt of feathers shown in the image stand in for a tribe of Brazilian Tupinamba Indians. This aggressive tribe of wild men and women exemplify communality of the Indians, their desire for free love, and their cookery fondness for human flesh. No one possesses his stuff, and everything is shared by everyone. Women are taken up by the men for pleasure regardless of the relations. There’s no distinction of mother, sister, or a friend. Fighting is normal. They kill and eat each other’s flesh. They have no rules or government to govern them. The portrayals of Hans Burgkmair of the indigenous peoples mark an extremely primary withdrawal from stereotypes. These peoples are offered as parts of identifiable family components; their figures are proportionally raised and are exhibited to alternate in space using creative lexis established in the Italian Renaissance.

John White is also popular for depicting historical accounts regarding the Native Americans. He had an unusual talent of watercolor paintings and his works are among the most notable portrayals of the indigenous Americans. Several other European generations of White presented pictorial representations of Native Americans. These creations of John White have a primary significance in the history of views and ideas of Europeans regarding American Indians[3]. Where White’s paintings preserve unambiguously features of the Indian people, the face and figures in De Bry’s patterns are no less distinctly European[4].

End Notes

  1. Del Val, Nasheli Jimenez. Seeing cannibals: European colonial discourses on the Latin American other. Cardiff University (United Kingdom), 2009.
  2. Keazor, Henry. “Theodore De Bry’s Images for America.” Print Quarterly 15, no. 2 (1998): 131-149.
  3. Mihesuah, Devon Abbott. American Indians: stereotypes & realities. SCB Distributors, 2013.
  4. Pratt, Stephanie. “Truth and Artifice in the Visualization of Native Peoples: From the time of John White to the Beginning of the 18th Century.” European Visions: American Voices (2009): 33-40.
  5. Mihesuah, Devon Abbott. American Indians: stereotypes & realities. SCB Distributors, 2013. ↑
  6. Del Val, Nasheli Jimenez. Seeing cannibals: European colonial discourses on the Latin American other. Cardiff University (United Kingdom), 2009. ↑
  7. Pratt, Stephanie. “Truth and Artifice in the Visualization of Native Peoples: From the time of John White to the Beginning of the 18th Century.” European Visions: American Voices (2009): 33-40. ↑
  8. Keazor, Henry. “Theodore De Bry’s Images for America.” Print Quarterly 15, no. 2 (1998): 131-149. ↑



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