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The Truth in Clothing: The Costume Studies of John White and Lucas de Heere

John White, Lucas de Heere, and the Truth in Clothing

By Michael Gaudio

European Visions: American Voices, edited by Kim Sloan (British Museum Research Publication No.172, 2009)

Extract: My concern in the following pages will be this ethnographic mode as it is pursued in England under the reigns of Elizabeth and James I, and especially – though not exclusively pursued in the late 16th-century watercolor drawings of John White and Luca de Heere, the latter a Flemish painter and poet who lived in England in the 1560s and 70s as a Protestant refugeee. Both of these artists were very much part of the the costume book tradition. Their visual descriptions of American Indians and the ancient and modern inhabitants of Europe, Asia and Africa contribute directly towards the Renaissance collection of customs and habits, towards the construction on a ‘theater’ of the peoples of the world. In one of the best known costume studies of the Algonquian Indians he encountered in Virginia in 1585, White depicts, according to his own gloss, ‘The manner of their attire and painting themselves when they goe to their generall huntings, or at theire Solemne feasts.”

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