This engraving is the
only known portrait of Pocahontas rendered from life. During her stay in
England, Dutch engraver Simon van de Passe captured her likeness and recorded
that she, like the artist himself, was 21 years old. It was the first of many
depictions of Pocahontas intended to demonstrate that a Native American could
adopt the demeanor of a "civilized" European. The Virginia
Company—backers of the Jamestown settlement—likely commissioned the
engraving with this in mind, hoping to attract more colonists and investors.
The image also promotes the false impression that she was a princess in the
European sense; the inscription describes her as the daughter of a mighty
emperor, and the ostrich feather in her hand is a symbol of royalty. But this
engraving offers a sound estimate of Pocahontas's true appearance.