Pocahontas, the Indian princess who allegedly saved the life of English colonist John Smith, survives and flourishes as an example of an early American heroine. While Smith may have embellished the story of his rescue, the importance of Pocahontas to relations between colonists and Native Americans is undisputed. Following her conversion to Christianity and marriage to Englishman John Rolfe, Pocahontas journeyed to England with her family to demonstrate the ability of new settlers and native tribes to coexist in the Virginia colony. While in England, Pocahontas sat for her portrait, which was later engraved. That print served as the basis for this later portrait. The painter included an inscription beneath his likeness, copied from the engraving, but through an error in transcription misidentifies her husband as Thomas, the name given to their son.
Peter Elwin [1718-1798], Booton Hall, Norfolk, England; by descent to Fountain Peter Elwin in 1900; purchased by Francis Burton Harrison 1926; bought by Andrew W. Mellon 1932; transferred to The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust; gift to NGA 1942; transferred 1965 to NPG.