A Young Gentle Woman Daughter of Secota
“A Younge Gentill Woeman Doughter of Secota.” Theodor de Bry’s engraving of a young American Indian woman, published in Thomas Hariot’s 1588 book A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. In the foreground, the woman is depicted from both the front and back. Her hair is tied back and her arms and legs are painted or tattooed. She is bare-chested and wears a necklace and a fringed skirt. In the background is a body of water in which ducks are swimming, and people in a canoe appear to be fishing in a weir.
The text accompanying the image reads:
Virgins of good parentage are apparelled altogether like the women of Secota above mentioned, saving that they wear hanging about their necks instead of a chain certain thick, and round pearls, with little beads of copper, or polished bones between them. They pounce [tattoo] their foreheads, cheeks, arms and legs. Their hair is cut with two ridges above their foreheads, the rest is trussed up on a knot behind, they have broad mouths, reasonable fair black eyes: they lay their hands often upon their Shoulders, and cover their breasts in token of maiden-like modesty. The rest of their bodies are naked, as in the picture is to be seen. They delight also in seeing fish taken in the rivers.
Theodor de Bry was a Flemish-born engraver and publisher who based his illustrations for Hariot’s book on the New World paintings of colonist John White. These depictions of the landscapes and residents of North Carolina provided Europeans with some of their earliest notions of what the North American continent looked like. This engraving was based on White’s watercolor painting, “Indian Woman.”