BRY, Theodore de

(1528-1598)
Flemish engraver Theodore de Bry made famous representations of American Indians that were among the first artistic impressions of "New World" peoples produced in Europe. De Bry operated in the international Protestant circle that was interested in overseas trade, colonization, and exploration. In 1587 he trav­eled from his Frankfurt home to London and received the commission from Sir Walter Raleigh* to engrave plates based upon the drawings made by John White of the indigenous inhabitants of "Virginia." These became part of the set of elaborate illustrations that accompanied his series depicting European voyages to the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Published in thirteen parts between 1590 and 1634, de Bry's Grands Voyages included, in addition to White's drawings and Thomas Hariot's description of the English colony at Roanoke, Jean de Lery's 1555-56 narrative of his visit to Brazil, the drawings of Jacques Le Moyne of the natives of Florida and the description of the ill-fated Huguenot colony there, Girolamo Benzoni's Historia del Mondo Nuovo (History of the New World), and other accounts. A less ambitious series, the Petits Voyages, focused on the activities of the Dutch in the Arctic, Africa, and East Asia.
American Indians, as depicted in de Bry's interpretation of indigenous life in Virginia and Florida, were well muscled and noble—innocent savages—who engaged in their daily routines without apparent self-consciousness. But the en­graver also chose to include illustrations of the natives of Central and South America as practitioners of human sacrifice and cannibalism, and he offered portrayals of the bizarre, such as the Brazilians whose heads purportedly grew beneath their shoulders. What armchair readers in the early modern period, who gobbled up such accounts, made of all this remains unclear, but at the least they must have obtained a sense that European visitors regarded Americans with a mixture of fascination and disquiet.
Bibliography
T. de Bry, Thomas Hariot's Virginia, 1966.
Louis Roper

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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