Portrait of a Pictish Woman

pictish_woman

I was actually looking for a map of the original Scottish kingdoms when I came upon this and a few other illustrations of a “pictish woman”. I found it at learnnc.org. which is connected to the University of North Carolina. The description with it goes like this;
“Hand-colored version of Theodor de Bry’s engraving of a Pict woman (a member of an ancient Celtic people from Scotland). De Bry’s engraving, “The True Picture of a Women Picte,” was originally published as an illustration in Thomas Hariot’s 1588 book A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia.
The woman stands with a long spear held upright in her left hand, and two long spears held horizontally in her right hand. She wears only a large ring around her waist, from which a curved sword hangs behind her, and a smaller ring around her neck. Much of her body appears to be painted or tattooed. In the background, two buildings stand on hillsides.

Theodor de Bry was a Flemish-born engraver and publisher who based his illustrations for Hariot’s book on the paintings of colonist John White. Most of the book’s illustrations depict the native people encountered by Hariot and White on their North American expedition, but A Brief and True Report also contains five engravings of the Picts and their neighbors in ancient Scotland. De Bry included these images “to show how that the inhabitants of the Great Bretannie have been in times past as savage as those of Virginia.” An unidentified artist applied the color to this version of de Bry’s engraving.”

It is a rather romantic drawing, typical of the period but I can’t help wondering how the original artist got his information. Another pit to jump into. Just for fun though I will add this illustration by the same person of the lady’s male counterpart.

true_pict

Again, a similar description:
“The Trvve Picture of One Picte.” Theodor de Bry’s engraving of a Pict (a member of an ancient Celtic people from Scotland), published in Thomas Hariot’s 1588 book A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. The Pict stands with a shield in his left hand, and a tall spear and disembodied human head in his right. Another head lies on the ground near the man’s left foot. The man wears only a large ring around his waist, from which a curved sword hangs behind him, and a smaller ring around his neck.
Theodor de Bry was a Flemish-born engraver and publisher who based his illustrations for Hariot’s book on the paintings of colonist John White. Most of the book’s illustrations depict the native people encountered by Hariot and White on their North American expedition, but A Brief and True Report also contains five engravings of the Picts and their neighbors in ancient Scotland. De Bry included these images “to show how that the inhabitants of the Great Bretannie have been in times past as savage as those of Virginia.”
The text accompanying this image reads: In times past the Picts, habitants of one part of great Bretainne, which is now named England, were savages, and did paint all their body after the manner following. They did let their hair grow as far as their shoulders, saving those which hang upon their forehead, the which they did cut. They shave all their beard except the mustaches, upon their breast were painted the head of some bird, and about the paps [nipples] as it were beams of the sun, upon the belly some fearful and monstrous face, spreading the beams very far upon the thighs. Upon the two knees some faces of lion, and upon their legs as it has been shells of fish. Upon their shoulders griffons heads, and then they have serpents about their arms: They carried about their necks one iron ring, and another about the middle of their body, about the belly, and the saids hang on a chain, a scimitar or Turkey sword, they did carry in one arm a target made of wood, and in the other hand a pick, of which the iron was after the manner of a Lick, with tassels on, and the other end with a round boule. And when they have overcome some of their enemies, they did never fail to carry away their heads with them.”

I am not sure why the author would be trying to show the similarities between the two groups of indigenous people, the North American Indian and the Picts of Scotland. 1588 was a long way from the time of the Picts. Was he trying to raise sympathy for the American Indian or have things not changed that much in that there is money in novelty. I think we are all aware of the voyeuristic tendencies of the public  perhaps he was trying to exploit that. I reserve judgement.

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