Pocahontas(circa 1596-1617), Indian princess
Pocahontas (Amonute) (née Matoaka, later Rebecca Rolfe)
Sitter in 3 portraits
Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, a ruler of the coastal region of present-day Virginia, is the most famous Native American from the early era of British colonial expansion in the New World. The arrival of English settlers in Virginia in 1607 led to armed conflict, the Indians had formed a powerful confederacy under the leadership of Chief Powhatan. In May 1610 tobacco planter John Rolfe arrived in Virginia, his development of a fine and profitable grade of tobacco helped revive the colony's economy. Attacks on the settlers were halted when Pocahontas was abducted in 1613. After a year in captivity, Pocahontas converted to Christianity. Baptised with the name Rebecca, she married John Rolfe with her father's consent. Their marriage is widely thought to be the first inter-racial church wedding in US history. Hostilities between the Jamestown settlers and local Indians subsided in 1614 mainly due to the couple's union. Their son Thomas was born in 1615, in 1616 the family sailed to England. Pocahontas, due to return imminently to Virginia with her family in 1617, died of pneumonia at Gravesend before setting aboard ship. She was buried at St George's Church, Gravesend, England. The life of Pocahontas has been fictionalised through art, literature and film. The tendency to romanticise her story was present in the earliest accounts of her life by authors such as Captain John Smith.
More on Pocahontas: Tudor & Jacobean Portraits book in our Shops
View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.
Artist and sitter interviews
Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.
Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.