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  • Ethnographic Portraiture in the Eighteenth Century: George Psalmanaazaar’s Drawings of Formosans
  • Peter Mason*

The aim of this article is twofold. First, in publishing a set of eighteenth-century ethnographic drawings for the first time in their entirety, 1 I hope to attract the attention of art, literary, and cultural historians to them and to generate a multidisciplinary discussion of their place and importance. Second, I hope to show how they conform to practices of ethnographic portraiture, both visual and textual, that are not limited to the eighteenth century, as a contribution to the study of how European representations have exoticized—and continue to exoticize—the inhabitants of the non-European world.

George Psalmanaazaar’s Drawings of Formosans

Among the collection of manuscripts of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace Library is a series of drawings of the inhabitants of Formosa. 2 Six sheets contain a total of nine human figures. They are clearly related to the engravings of Formosans contained in George Psalmanaazaar’s An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, an Island subject to the Emperor of Japan, giving an Account of the Religion, Customs, Manners &c. of the Inhabitants (London: printed for Dan. Brown at the Black Swan, 1704). After comparing the drawings with the engravings, it is necessary to take the text accompanying the engravings into account as well. We have three bodies of evidence—drawings, engravings, and printed text—and thus two kinds of relation: the relation between drawing and engraving and the relation between word and image.


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Figure 1.

“Vice-Rex”. Lambeth Palace Papers, No. 6, MS 954, item 27. Lambeth Palace Library, London.


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Figure 7.

“The Viceroy”. George Psalmanaazaar, An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa (London 1704), p. 230.

The first image pasted into the Lambeth manuscript is entitled “Vice-Rex” (Plate 1). It corresponds to the engraving of “The Viceroy” in the Description (fig. 7, p. 226) (Plate 7). There are minor differences between the two in the shape of the lance held in the viceroy’s right hand. That hand has five fingers and thumb in the drawing, while the engraving shows the correct number of digits. The more elaborate engraving depicts “his Vest...lin’d with the skin of some Tyger or Leopard” (Description, p. 227), a refinement that is absent from the drawing.


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Figure 2.

“Civis”. Lambeth Palace Papers, No. 6, MS 954, item 27. Lambeth Palace Library, London.


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Figure 10.

“A Burger,” “A Country Bumpkin,” “A Virgin,” “A Bride”. George Psalmanaazaar, An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa (London 1704), p. 230.

The drawing in the manuscript is followed by a drawing labeled “Civis” (Plate 2). It shows a bearded man smoking a pipe. If the object he holds in [End Page 58] his left hand can be identified as a carafe, he is thus portrayed as the consumer of two kinds of stimulants. Attached to his belt is a circular plate to cover the genital area. To his left is a much smaller figure who has a long stick (?) between his legs. The latter must be intended to represent the dress of a “Civis” as a boy. The function of the stick is unclear (perhaps he is riding it like a hobbyhorse). Comparison with the engraving of “A Burger” (fig. 10, p. 230) (Plate 10) shows a reversal of direction between the drawing and the engraving. The “Burger” corresponds in most essentials to the figure in the drawing, except that he is clean-shaven and the plate attached to his belt tapers to a point at the bottom. The details of the carafe and of the boy are absent from the engraving.


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Figure 3.

“Rusticus”. Lambeth Palace Papers, No. 6, MS 954, item 27. Lambeth Palace Library, London.

The successor to the drawing of the “Civis” is one of a “Rusticus” (Plate 3), the “Country Bumpkin” engraved on the same page of the Description as the “Burger” (Plate 10). Both figures wear the bearskin cloak mentioned in the text (p...

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3192
Print ISSN
0098-2601
Pages
pp. 58-76
Launched on MUSE
1999-11-01
Open Access
No
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