Friday, May 3, 2013

First European Images of Native Americans?

Photo courtesy of Vatican Museums

The Vatican says that the restoration of a fresco from 1494 appears to have revealed the earliest European depiction Native Americans.

According to an article in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the tiny images of nude, figures wearing feathered headdresses came to light during the restoration of a fresco of Christ's Resurrection by Pinturicchio in the Borgia Apartments of the Vatican.

"The naked men, who appear to be dancing, were spotted by a restorer, Maria Pustka, as she removed centuries of grime," writes Nick Squires in The Telegraph. A sketched horse can also be seen.

In the Osservatore Romano article, Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, suggests that the figures were inspired by Christopher Columbus's own description of native people encountered on his first trip to the "new world" just two years before the fresco was completed.

Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia became pope in August 1492, two months before Columbus set foot in the Americas, and, like other European leaders, he was "interested in the New World," Parolucci wrote.

“What if the early impression of those naked men, good and even happy, who gave parrots as gifts and painted their bodies black and red, came to life in the small dancing figurines in the background of Pinturicchio’s Resurrection?” he wrote. This would then be, he added, "the first figurative representation of native Americans."

See articles in The Telegraph  and Religion News Service

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