Friday, December 9, 2016

Jacques LeMoyne and the Timucua Indians

Jacques le Moyne de Morgues (c. 1533–1588) was a French artist and member of Jean Ribault's expedition to the New World. In 1564 Ribault's men established a fort at the mouth of the St. Johns River near modern Jacksonville, Florida. They remained less than a year, until they were attacked and driven out by the Spanish. The Spanish then established St. Augustine to hold this part of their empire against future interlopers. (Chief Outina marches to war covered in red war paint)

That region was inhabited by Indians the Europeans called Timucua, and one mostly sees de Bry's work these days in ethnographic works on Indian life. I have a little project in Florida right now, which is how I happened to be looking at his stuff. (Chief Outina's sorcerer contorts himself as he predicts the outcome of a battle)

The works that made Le Moyne famous were engravings published by Theodore de Bry, which is what I show here. These are supposed to have been based on drawings by Le Moyne. But they are not quite an eye-witness account of the New World. Most of le Moyne's original drawings were destroyed in the Spanish attack, so he recreated them from memory back in Europe. Plus de Bry's engravings always look like his own work, not really anybody else's, and he tended to make things much more classical and orderly than in the originals. So these represent le Moyne's experience, but filtered though his memory and then through de Bry's engraving style. (Indians hunting deer)

This engraving depicts a pillar that the French set up to represent their king's sovereignty, and it shows Indians worshiping the pillar as a god. This is one of the more controversial engravings. For one thing, the French are not likely to have set up such an elaborate pillar in their crude log and dirt fort, and why would the Indians worship it anyway? On the other hand the engravings consistently show the Indian chiefs as taller than the Frenchmen, which is how le Moyne described things in his text.

Chief Satouriona prepares for battle. Two containers of water are used in the ritual. One container is splashed over the men with the prayer to the sun that the enemy's blood will likewise be splashed over them. The second container is poured over the fire in the hope that the enemy will be extinguished as the fire is extinguished.

Using fire arrows to set an enemy village on fire.

Trophies and ceremonies after a victory.

Widows ritually mourning before the king, asking him to provide for their families and avenge the deaths of their husbands.

A Harvest Offering. According to le Moyne's text, the Indians took the skin of the largest stag they could catch and stuffed it with all their favorite foods and hoisted it up as an offering.

Women carrying baskets of food to the public storehouse.

And one of le Moyne's drawings, Three Timucuan Women. The whole set of engravings is here.

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