Native Village 
Youth and Education News

October, 2013

Vatican discovers first ever depiction of Native Americans
Condensed by Native Village

Pinturicchio, 1494

Italy: The Vatican has discovered what may be the first ever depiction of Native Americans in ancient painting. The natives were those encountered by Christopher Columbus during his first trip to the New World.

Painted by Renaissance master Pinturicchio, it's been hanging in the Vatican's Borgia Apartments for 500 years. The image was seen after preservationists removed 500 years of soot.

Antonio Paolucci from the Vatican Museum suggests the images were inspired by Columbus's travels. He says the painting dates to 1494 -- the year after Columbus returned from his first trip to the Americas.  It shows men dancing in feathered headdresses, and a man on horseback is also visible.

During that voyage, it's believed Columbus landed in the Bahamas in October, 1492. Columbus, however, thought he was in Eastern Asia.  The depiction matches his account of being greeted by men painted in red and black who danced for the explorers on the coast of East Asia. 

After Columbus returned to Spain in March 1943, news of his discoveries spread across Europe like wildfire. His travels would have been shared at the Vatican because Spain had commissioned Columbus' voyages, and the pope at that time -- Alexander VI -- was Spanish.'

"The Borgia Pope was interested in the New World, as were the great chancelleries of Europe," Paolucci said . "It is hard to believe that the papal court, especially under a Spanish pope, would have remained in the dark about what Columbus encountered."

The scene appears above the image of an open marble casket from which Christ has risen.


The depiction matches Christopher Columbus's account of being greeted by naked men who painted themselves in red and black and danced for the European explorers

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