Jamestown and Beyond: The World of 1607

Jamestown and Beyond: The World of 1607

Explore twelve compelling works of art that illustrate and illuminate the world of 1607 and the legacy of Jamestown. Some were created by European, African, Asian, and South American cultures around the time that Jamestown was struggling to survive. Others were produced in the centuries that followed as artists drew from fact, legend—and sometimes their imaginations—to depict life in and around the Jamestown colony.

Grade Level:
Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Collection:
African Art, American Art, European Art, Pre-Columbian Art, South Asian Art
Subject Area:
History and Social Science
Activity Type:
Classroom Resource, Resource Set

Jamestown and Beyond: The World of 1607

Image Gallery

Landing at Jamestown
Ewer
Qero
Extensive Landscape with View of the Castle of Mariemont
Sir Thomas Dale
Queen Anne of Denmark, Wife of James I
The Puritan
Brideship
Plaque of Benin Chief
Musashi Plain
Chatter Singh of Chamba Smoking a Huqqa
Pocahontas

Introduction

"O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beautious mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in't!"– Miranda in The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Scholars believe that William Strachey’s account of the wreck of the Sea Venture on its way to Virginia inspired Shakespeare to write The Tempest.

The history of Jamestown evokes images of the “brave new world” reached by small ships defying Atlantic storms, a rough-hewn palisade, and stalwart explorers who faced danger, disease, and hunger. The term “New World” has traditionally referred to the large continents of the Western Hemisphere encountered by European explorers in search of new routes to Asia. In a sense, however, the entire world underwent a transformation during the age of exploration, conquest, and trade that followed the fifteenth century. For the first time in human history, political, economic, and cultural networks connected people in every quarter of the globe. Exchanges of plants and animals changed diets and new diseases and technologies crossed the Atlantic. Political and religious ideas and concepts transformed societies, economic fluctuations had worldwide effects, vast populations were relocated, and the first truly international wars were fought.

The establishment of Jamestown by the English also marked a turning point for North America. Early Spanish and French explorers and soldiers had sailed to the western continents primarily to gain wealth and power. The Jamestown colonists, from a small island nation with overcrowded cities and dwindling opportunities, were seeking a new home and a brighter future. They too looked for gold, but they also wanted land and were willing to acquire it from the “naturals” who lived there by any means necessary. They brought their families, a political heritage that included certain rights and privileges, and great hope for the future of the New World.

Landing at Jamestown

Landing at Jamestown

1841 , American

Medium: oil on panel

Accession ID: 85.631

For the last four hundred years, the gripping story of the first permanent English foothold in the New World has inspired American artists. John Gadsby Chapman painted this romanticized scene of Ja ...

For the last four hundred years, the gripping story of the first permanent English foothold in the New World has inspired American artists. John Gadsby Chapman painted this romanticized scene of Jamestown colonists and a group of Virginia Indians in 1841. The inscription on the beached boat to the left is “Hope of James Towne,” while a notation on the back of the panel reads “Old Times in the New World.”

By age nineteen, Chapman was painting professionally and attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He traveled to Rome and Florence for further study in 1828. Although his biblical scenes enjoyed success in Italy, he turned to subjects that celebrated the American past after returning home in 1831. Chapman spent some years painting portraits and landscapes in Virginia before settling in New York City in 1834, where he became a member of the National Academy of Design.

During his distinguished career, he produced a number of other paintings that relate to the history of Jamestown. These included The Crowning of Powhatan, The Warning of Powhatan, and The Baptism of Pocahontas, the last commissioned by the U.S. government for the Rotunda of the Capitol and unveiled in 1840.

read more
Ewer

Ewer

ca. 1600 , Spanish

Medium: silver, gilt, jasper, marble

Accession ID: 63.36.1

This glittering ewer and basin set was made in Castile during the Spanish Renaissance. The intricate arabesque designs, characteristic of the time (around 1600), reflect the Oriental splendor of Sp ...

This glittering ewer and basin set was made in Castile during the Spanish Renaissance. The intricate arabesque designs, characteristic of the time (around 1600), reflect the Oriental splendor of Spain’s Moorish heritage. Used by aristocratic and middle class families for mealtime washing, these ornate objects suggest the riches of the Americas that created a century of opulence in Spain.

In 1469, the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile heralded the Golden Age of the Spanish Empire. By the end of 1492, the Catholic monarchs had driven the last Moorish king out of Spain, expelled the Jews, and turned their gaze toward the riches of the East. During the next century, Spanish conquistadors seized power and wealth in the New World, vanquishing many of its native civilizations. The silver and gold pouring into the country’s treasuries financed Spain’s troops during the European wars that followed the ascension of Phillip II (heir of Habsburg Emperor Charles V and great-grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella) to the Spanish throne in 1556.

New World gold also built the formidable Spanish fleet—and lured many European sea captains into raiding treasure-laden ships as they crossed the Atlantic. Eventually, Spanish wealth triggered waves of inflation throughout Europe. Spain’s traditional industries declined and the Spanish economy collapsed, ending the era of Spain’s military and economic ascendancy.

read more
Qero

Qero

17th century , Colonial Inca

Medium: wood with polychrome pigments

Accession ID: 59.28.12

This drinking vessel, or qero in the Inca language Quechua, was carved and decorated by Inca artisans in the central highlands of Peru during the colonial period. Qeros were used during communal re ...

This drinking vessel, or qero in the Inca language Quechua, was carved and decorated by Inca artisans in the central highlands of Peru during the colonial period. Qeros were used during communal religious festivals and celebrations to hold maize beer called chicha. The beaker shape can be traced back to some of the earliest cultures in Peru, thousands of years before the Inca, but this seventeenth-century vessel incorporates Spanish influences into the traditional design. The figures—hunters and animals—reflect European styles of figure painting, while the geometric stepped pattern of the central band is distinctly Inca.

Over the course of the sixteenth-century, many civilizations in the Americas fell before advancing Spanish invaders. From the base established in Hispaniola in the early 1500s, Ponce de Leon conquered Puerto Rico and Diego Velázquez subjugated Cuba. By 1519, Hernando Cortes had defeated the Aztecs in Mexico, and by 1533, Francisco Pizarro had conquered the empire of the Incas. The effect of these campaigns on the indigenous cultures of the Americas was catastrophic. European diseases decimated native populations. Survivors faced Spanish soldiers—wielding steel weapons and riding fearsome horses—and priests intent on rooting out all traditional beliefs and customs that conflicted with Roman Catholicism.

read more
Extensive Landscape with View of the Castle of Mariemont

Extensive Landscape with View of the Castle of Mariemont

1609-11 , Flemish

Medium: oil on canvas

Accession ID: 53.10

The figures in this landscape—the gentlemen, servants, horses, and dogs—could easily inhabit a Jamestown scene. Even the outer defenses of the castle in this landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder ...

The figures in this landscape—the gentlemen, servants, horses, and dogs—could easily inhabit a Jamestown scene. Even the outer defenses of the castle in this landscape by Jan Brueghel the Elder are similar to those of James Fort. The painting, however, actually depicts Archduke Albert of Austria, regent of the Spanish Netherlands, and his companions. The archduke, looking through his telescope, is probably hunting pheasant in this agreeable country setting—dramatically different from the dense forests, strange fauna, and mosquito-ridden marshes of Virginia that confronted the Jamestown settlers.

The artist’s native Flanders was located in the Spanish Netherlands, an area within the Spanish Hapsburg Empire. The southern provinces of the Spanish Netherlands remained loyal to Spain during its age of expansion, but the northern provinces revolted against Catholic monarch Philip II in a series of Low Country campaigns. Known as the Eighty Years’ War, the struggle continued intermittently from 1569 until 1648. The antagonism between Anglican England and Catholic Spain made England a natural ally for these northern Dutch forces, and, in fact, many early Jamestown leaders acquired their military expertise in the Low Country Wars.

read more
Sir Thomas Dale

Sir Thomas Dale

ca. 1609-1619 , Flemish (active in England)

Medium: Oil on canvas

Accession ID: 52.8

Like many ambitious young Englishmen of his day, Thomas Dale began his career during the Low Country Wars. This painting was one of four portraits of renowned captains commissioned by Sir Horace Va ...

Like many ambitious young Englishmen of his day, Thomas Dale began his career during the Low Country Wars. This painting was one of four portraits of renowned captains commissioned by Sir Horace Vare, Dale’s commander at the siege of Ostend, the bloodiest battle of the Eighty Years War. Currently attributed to Geeraerts, this portrait is the work of a skilled artist fluent in the international court styles of his day.

After receiving a knighthood in 1606 in recognition for his campaigns, Sir Thomas Dale of Surry set sail for Virginia in 1609 to serve as high marshall. He became Jamestown’s de facto leader when the ailing Lord De La Warr returned to England in 1611. To establish discipline in the colony, Dale expanded and enforced Virginia’s first law code, Articles, Lawes, and Orders Divine, Politique, and Martiall, often called Dale’s Code. Although his regulations were draconian and punishments harsh, he managed to avert famines and epidemics, fend off Indian attacks, institute private land holdings, and establish a new community called Henricus. Dale returned to England in 1616, on the same ship that carried John Rolfe and Pocahontas.

In 1618, the English East India Company gave him command of six ships and sent him to India to protect their interests against the Dutch. He fell ill and died in August 1619 near Masulipatum, India.

read more
Queen Anne of Denmark, Wife of James I

Queen Anne of Denmark, Wife of James I

ca. 1616-1619 , Flemish

Medium: oil on canvas

Accession ID: 57.36

Born in 1574 in Skanderborg, Jutland, Anne was the daughter of Frederick II, king of Denmark and Norway. In 1589, she married James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England in 1603. The Virgin ...

Born in 1574 in Skanderborg, Jutland, Anne was the daughter of Frederick II, king of Denmark and Norway. In 1589, she married James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England in 1603. The Virginia Company of London received their First Charter from James I in 1606 and named the new colony in his honor. Although originally a Lutheran, Anne probably converted to Catholicism shortly after marrying James, which was objectionable in both Presbyterian Scotland and Anglican England. Her son, King Charles I, was firmly committed to the Church of England and the “high-church” liturgy, vestments, and other practices prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer. In 1649, Charles I was executed by his political opponents in Parliament, who had the support of the Calvinist-inspired Puritans who wanted to reform, or “purify,” the established English church.

Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger was born in Bruges, but his father brought him to England in 1568 to escape religious conflicts on the continent. The younger Gheeraerts became a society painter, best known for portraits including the famous “Ditchley portrait” of Queen Elizabeth I. A great patroness of the arts, Queen Anne ordered a number of original paintings by Gheeraerts, as well as replicas—like this one—by his workshop.

read more
The Puritan

The Puritan

modeled 1883-86, remodeled 1898, this cast by 1903 , American

Medium: bronze

Accession ID: 83.74

By 1620, the Jamestown colony had proved that English colonists could survive the rigors of the Virginia wilderness. Their success inspired a group of radical Protestants to petition King James I f ...

By 1620, the Jamestown colony had proved that English colonists could survive the rigors of the Virginia wilderness. Their success inspired a group of radical Protestants to petition King James I for permission to settle within the territory of the Virginia Company of London. James granted the request of the “pilgrims,” who wanted to establish a new community based on their own religious principles. Beset by storms, the colonists landed farther north than originally planned. With winter approaching, they settled near Plymouth Harbor, outside the area defined by the Virginia Company’s charter. The Pilgrims were soon followed by another group of Protestants, usually known as Puritans. This group, organized through the Massachusetts Bay Company, was granted a royal charter in 1629. They founded both Salem and Boston, the first communities of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

This bronze statue is a reduction of a full-scale work created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1887 in honor of Deacon Samuel Chapin, one of the founders of Springfield, Massachusetts. Saint-Gaudens studied in Paris and Rome after apprenticing as a cameo cutter in New York. Known for his elegant monumental sculptures, he served as an artistic advisor to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World.

read more
Brideship

Brideship

ca. 1927-28 , American

Medium: oil and egg tempera on canvas mounted on composite board

Accession ID: 98.28

Thomas Hart Benton painted Brideship for his series titled “The American Historical Epic.” Conceived while the artist was in the Navy and stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, the canvas represents a ...

Thomas Hart Benton painted Brideship for his series titled “The American Historical Epic.” Conceived while the artist was in the Navy and stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, the canvas represents an Englishwoman negotiating her passage to Jamestown by offering herself as a bride. Benton studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and later at the Académie Julien in Paris amid the many abstract movements of the early 1900s. He later rejected modernism, preferring figurative images depicting American life and history.

Although a few women had been in Jamestown since its earliest years—including Mistress Forest, Anne Burras, and Temperance Flowerdew—the first large contingent of women arrived in the spring of 1620. The Virginia Company, having realized by 1619 that females were integral to the colony’s success, recruited and sent this group of ninety women, “maids young and uncorrupt, to make wives to the inhabitants and by that means to make the men there more settled and less movable.” In 1621, they dispatched an additional fifty-seven women “specially commended for their goode bringing up.” Although these women had high hopes for a new life, many undoubtedly perished in the 1622 Indian uprising and the famine that followed.

read more
Plaque of Benin Chief

Plaque of Benin Chief

16th-17th century , Benin

Medium: bronze

Accession ID: 83.136

The Portuguese ushered in the Age of Discovery by sailing down the coast of Africa searching for gold and an alternate route to the spices of the East. By 1471, they reached the “Gold Coast,” w ...

The Portuguese ushered in the Age of Discovery by sailing down the coast of Africa searching for gold and an alternate route to the spices of the East. By 1471, they reached the “Gold Coast,” where the Akan state began to supply them with gold in exchange for slaves from other African states. Portuguese sailors soon reached the Kingdom of Benin, which was ruled by an Oba, or “divine king.” A profitable trade relationship soon developed. The Portuguese traded European guns and other goods for ivory, palm-oil, pepper, and slaves. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Benin, like other African states of the era, grew rich by selling other Africans from rival states to Europeans slave traders. The first Africans in Jamestown, described as “20 and odd Negroes” who were probably from Angola, were reported to have arrived aboard a Dutch ship in 1619.

This plaque is one of many created by artists of the royal court of Benin. These exquisitely detailed works were fastened to the pillars of the Benin royal palace, where important people and events were honored, providing a lasting record of Benin’s ruling class. The plaque itself was thought to contain spiritual power because the metal was mysteriously transformed as it was refined and cast.

read more
Musashi Plain

Musashi Plain

17th century , Japanese

Medium: one of two six–panel folding screens; ink, color, gold and silver on paper

Accession ID: 83.135.1

The colonizing zeal of European powers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries stretched across the globe. While Powhatan negotiated with Jamestown colonists hoping to enhance his position among ...

The colonizing zeal of European powers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries stretched across the globe. While Powhatan negotiated with Jamestown colonists hoping to enhance his position among hostile tribes in Virginia, his contemporary, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616), faced a similar situation in Japan half a world away.

In 1542—the year that Ieyasu was born—Portuguese merchants and navigators became the first Europeans to reach Japan. Like Powhatan, Ieyasu out-maneuvered and defeated his rivals to emerge as the military commander (or Shogun) of his country. Because Japan was an easily defended island nation, Ieyasu and his successors had less need than Powhatan for European allies. Ieyasu’s grandson Iemitsu eventually decided that the threat from the presence of the Europeans outweighed the advantages they offered and by 1638 had banished almost every foreigner in Japan. Although this action isolated the country from outside cultural developments, it also protected Japan from European conquest for the next 250 years.

While the Imperial Court remained at Kyoto, Ieyasu established a new military capital in Edo (present-day Tokyo), which soon developed a culture of its own. This haunting image of Mount Fuji rising above the Musashi Plain was probably painted by one of the town-painters, or machi-eshi, living in Edo. These artists, also renowned for painted fans and illustrated books, often portrayed seasonal settings and poetic themes.

read more
Chatter Singh of Chamba Smoking a Huqqa

Chatter Singh of Chamba Smoking a Huqqa

1690 or later , Indian

Medium: opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper

Accession ID: 68.8.92

The economic forces that attracted Europeans to Virginia led English, Dutch, and French companies to attempt similar trading ventures in India. For centuries, Mediterranean commerce had depended on ...

The economic forces that attracted Europeans to Virginia led English, Dutch, and French companies to attempt similar trading ventures in India. For centuries, Mediterranean commerce had depended on associations for raising investment capital. This concept, later called a joint-stock company in England, eventually spread to Dutch and English merchants. The English East India Company was chartered in 1600, seven years before the first colonists disembarked at Jamestown. Its original purpose was to create strong trading relationships by establishing English enclaves at Surat, Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, but the company eventually became the chief mechanism of English Imperialism in India. Similar companies were founded by the Dutch in 1602 and the French in 1664.

The prince in this painting is smoking tobacco, a plant native to the American continent. Explorers brought the first pipe tobacco to Europe in the 1500s. Initially, it was merely a foreign curiosity, but its popularity escalated after Virginia planters, including John Rolfe, developed sweeter-tasting hybrids. This product, which made Virginia the richest English colony in America, reached India and Southeast Asia within a century. By the 18th century, its use was widespread among the northern Indian nobility.

read more
Pocahontas

Pocahontas

1889 - 1907 , American

Medium: oil on canvas

Accession ID: 19.1.51

Pocahontas was the nickname of the elegant lady in this portrait by Richard Norris Brooke, completed in time for the 1907 Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition. Born around 1595 to one of Powhatan's w ...

Pocahontas was the nickname of the elegant lady in this portrait by Richard Norris Brooke, completed in time for the 1907 Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition. Born around 1595 to one of Powhatan's wives, she was given three other names over the course of her life. Her formal names within the Powhatan culture were Matoaka and Amonute, and she was later renamed Rebecca at her Christian baptism.

The truth about Pocahontas is as elusive as her name. She left behind no personal account of her life, an omission that has inspired many versions and various interpretations over the last four centuries. According to John Smith’s The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (although modern scholars question his veracity), Pocahontas saved Smith’s life when he was captured in 1608. During the following year, she often visited James Fort with gifts of food. In 1613, she was kidnapped and held for ransom by the English. While in captivity, she converted to Christianity and married planter John Rolfe. The couple visited England in 1616 with their son Thomas. Rebecca Rolfe fell ill and died at Gravesend, England, in 1617. She was twenty-two years old.

read more