The fourth volume in the series was issued in 1594, under the title: Americae pars quarta. Sive, Insignis & admiranda historia de reperta premium Occidentali India a Christophoro Columbo anno MCCCCXCII. The text, a Latin translation of Giralmo Benzoni’s Historia del Mondo Nuovo (Venice 1565), is essentially a great catalogue of atrocities committed by the Spanish during the course of their colonial activities in the New World. Unlike the original edition of 1565, De Bry’s publication of the text was illustrated with a number of engravings, including one (fig. 1) which is clearly linked to the present drawing in terms of composition. The artist responsible for the designs for the illustrations to this volume is not recorded, but in any case, the present drawing cannot be considered the preparatory study for the engraving. Although the drawing is indented for transfer, it is in the same direction as the print, and, more importantly, there are many significant differences between the two compositions: for example, the engraved image shows two separate groups of natives on the shore, each surrounding the dead body of a Spaniard, whereas in the drawing only one such group appears. The type of vegetation seen in each image is also entirely different, suggesting they were meant to depict very different locations.
Stylistically, the present drawing also seems significantly later in date, and is broadly reminiscent of the works of later 17th-century Dutch designers of book illustrations such as Jan Goeree, Romeyn de Hooghe or Gerard Hoet. The most logical explanation would seem to be that the image from De Bry’s 1594 publication was taken up and adapted by a later illustrator, perhaps even to illustrate an entirely different text, but until a directly related print or drawing is identified, both the function and the authorship of this intriguing drawing remain a puzzle.
The drawing belonged to the illustrious Czech collector Dr. Arthur Feldmann, whose collection was extensively looted during World War II. A significant group of restituted Feldmann drawings was sold at Sotheby's in London on 6 July 2005; for a full account of the collection and its fate, see the introduction preceding lot 11 in that sale catalogue.
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