Allegory of America, from New Inventions of Modern Times (Nova Reperta), plate 1 of 19

Theodoor Galle Netherlandish
After Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus Netherlandish
Publisher Philips Galle Netherlandish

Not on view

This is the first plate from the series entitled Nova Reperta, which surveys new inventions and discoveries made during the Renaissance from a European perspective. In this engraving, the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci is shown as he first encounters America. Stradanus presents the continent as an allegorical figure; a sexualized young woman gesturing towards Vespucci from her hammock. She wears only a feathered headdress and skirt, her club abandoned against the tree at the right, where an anteater is shown feasting. Set behind her in the rolling landscape are other animals associated with the Americas—a horse and a bear. Also depicted is a scene of cannibalism.

The representation of the Four Continents—Africa, America, Asia and Europe—as female allegorical figures with their so-called attributes has a long history and was standardized in the late sixteenth century by Cesare Ripa in his influential emblem book Iconologia. Since such allegories were almost exclusively the work of white male European artists, they represent a biased point of view and promote a Christian Eurocentric sense of self that epitomizes formative habits of racial and gender stereotyping.   

Here, Vespucci carries a staff with a crucifix at its pinnacle and a banner of the Southern Cross. He also holds a brass mariner's astrolabe which helped him navigate the seas to find new lands to explore and people to exploit on behalf of Spain and Portugal. Vespucci undertook several expeditions to South and Central America between 1497 and 1504, spurred by Christopher Columbus’s earlier journey. In the preparatory drawing for this print (1974.205), Vespucci is shown naming the allegorical figure America, a feminized version of his own name.

Allegory of America, from New Inventions of Modern Times (Nova Reperta), plate 1 of 19, Theodoor Galle (Netherlandish, Antwerp 1571–1633 Antwerp), Engraving

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.