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Allegorical Representation of 'America'

Accession Number

Allegorical Representation of 'America'

Marten de Vos; Maarten de Vos

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
pen and black ink with ink wash on cream-colored paper

4 15/16 in x 4 15/16 in (12.54 cm x 12.54 cm);19 ¼ in x 14 ⅜ in (48.89 cm x 36.51 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
Attributed to Maarten de Vos
Flanders, 1532–1603
Allegorical Representation of America
circa 1594–1600
Pen and black ink with ink wash
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Museum purchase, 1960/2.24
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Americas were a largely unknown land with a powerful allure for Europeans wanting to expand their colonial territories and exploit its natural resources. This allegorical depiction of America shows it personified as a female figure seated on a tree stump, adorned with a feather girdle and headdress, armbands, and a necklace of shells over her shoulder. Around her are emblems of America’s fecundity: a rhinoceros (often confused with an armadillo), a jaguar with the head of a lion, a fantastic parrot, and a fruit-laden tree. Staff in hand she faces the European ship at the upper left while her left arm, draped with strands of beads, holds a bowl as if to offer the newcomers the wealth of her lands.
De Vos made numerous drawings intended for translation into prints by some of the leading engravers in Europe. This image showing how Europeans perceived the Americas may have been intended as a decorative plaquette or even a stained glass.

Primary Object Classification

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Reptiles and amphibians
severed heads

45 Related Resources

Borders of Identity in North America
(Part of 12 Learning Collections)
Early Modern Atlantic World
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Religious Encounters in the New World
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
American History Abridged 
(Part of: Teaching United States History through Art )

& Author Notes

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