the florida indian in literature and art

23.  Garcilaso de la Vega, El Inca.  La Florida del Ynca. Lisbon, 1605.

A mestizo of double nobility, Garcilaso (1539-1616), also known as “the Inca,” was the son of a Spanish soldier from a distinguished family and an Inca princess. He grew up in Cuzco, where he acquired a Renaissance education. In 1560 he left Peru, never to return, and settled in Córdoba, where he dedicated his life to study and writing and became a renowned Humanist.  His history of the expedition of Hernando de Soto’s three-year exploration of what is now Florida and the Southeast was the first work published by a native-born American author. In this work, Garcilaso’s pride in his noble Indian background mingles strangely with a similar pride in his noble Spanish blood and the achievements of the conquistadors. Here, de Soto is exalted as a Renaissance hero of endurance and courage. Although based on eyewitness accounts, Garcilaso’s history is at times fanciful and prone to associations with Classical mythology.

The Influential Imagery of Theodor de Bry

The engravings shown here were produced by Theodor de Bry, who published Jacques Le Moyne’s account of the French attempt to establish a colony in Florida in 1565, which contained numerous engravings depicting the way of life and customs of the Timucuan Indians who lived in the area. During the course of the seventeenth century, the Timucuans were successfully christianized by Spanish missionaries, but they were virtually wiped out of existence in slaving raids armed by South Carolina in 1703 and 1704. The de Bry images are the only visual documentation of these peoples that we have, but it should be noted that they owe as much to European artistic sensibilities for depicting the human body as they do to the character of Le Moyne’s original drawings, which have been lost.   


24.  [Outina’s military discipline when he goes to war.] In: Theodor de Bry.  Grandes voyages. Part 2. German.  Frankfurt, 1609.

When chief Satouriwa goes to war his soldiers keep no formation but run around hither and thither all over the place, following one another. On the other hand, his enemy Holata Outina, who is much more powerful than he in wealth and number of subjects, keeps orderly formation as he advances, like a professional line of battle. He places himself, painted red, alone in the middle of the column.The wings or flanks of the column are made up of youths, the fastest of whom, also painted red, perform the role of runners, or scouts to reconnoiter the enemy’s strength; for they detect his tracks by smell, as a dog does with some wild animal.


25. [Preparations for a feast.] In:  Theodor de Bry. Grandes voyages.  Part 2, German.  Frankfurt, 1591.

…they are temperate in their eating, as a result of which they live for a long time. For one of their chiefs assured me that he was three hundred years old, and that his father, whom he showed me, was fifty years older than he; and I can truly say, that when I saw him, I thought I was looking at no more than human bones covered with skin.  They certainly put Christians to shame who reduce their span of life by holding immoderate feasts and drinking parties, and who deserve to be handed over for training to these base uncivilized people and brutish creatures in order to learn restraint.


26. [Their way of killing crocodiles.] In: Theodor de Bry. Grandes voyages. Part 2. German.  Frankfurt, 1591.

The animal shown is an alligator; crocodiles are not native to Florida.

They make a small hut by the river full of cracks and spyholes, in which a watchman can see and hear the crocodiles at a distance. For these creep out from the rivers and islands, driven by hunger, in search of prey. … They go out to confront this creature (as it crawls with its jaws open trying to catch one of them), brandishing a tree trunk ten or twelve feet long, and with great dexterity they thrust the narrower end as far as possible down its throat. … This is the Indians way of hunting crocodiles which molest them to such an extent that they are compelled to keep watch by night and day, just as we guard ourselves against the most dangerous enemies.


Theodor de Bry's Engravings

Theodor de Bry’s engravings of native peoples have had a very long and influential life.  For more than two centuries they provided a “source book” for engravers and illustrators looking for stock images.  The images of the Timucuan chief and his wife taking a stroll have often been repurposed for other publications as can be seen in the Italian costume book and maps in this case.


27. [The chief and his wife take a refreshing stroll.] In: Theodor de Bry. Grandes Voyages.  Part 2. German.  Frankfurt, 1591.

Now and again the chief goes out into the nearby wood for an evening walk alone with his principal wife, wearing a deerskin so elegantly prepared and painted in various colors that nothing more beautifully decorated is to be seen ... The chief’s wife and attendants are adorned with a particular kind of moss either hanging from their shoulders or around them as a girdle.  This moss has such an attractive bluish green color that the fibers look like silk.  … Sometimes, when I have been out hunting with some fellow soldiers in the woods near chief Satouriwas’s residence, I have come across him and his wife adorned this way.


28. Cesare Vecellio. Habiti antichi, et moderni di tutto il mondo. Venice, 1598. 


29. “Virginiae item et Floridae Americae provinciarum, nova description.” From: Gerard Mercator. Atlas. Amsterdam, 1619. 

30. “America with those known parts in that unknown worlde. 1612.” From: John Speed.  A prospect of the most famous parts of the world. London, 1631.   
To next section: Spain's Pacification Policy: Conquest by Gospel  

Exhibition may be seen in THE Reading Room from january through
april 2013.

Exhibition prepared by Amy Turner Bushnell, Independent Research Scholar, and Susan Danforth, Curator of Maps, John Carter Brown Library.