The Senate’s portrait of Pocahontas is a copy of an oil painting that originally hung in Booton Hall, the English ancestral home of her husband’s family, the Rolfes. The Booton Hall portrait is known to have existed by 1760-70. It was later acquired by American art collector Andrew Mellon and is now held by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Scholars believe that the original oil–-once thought to be a life portrait–-was actually based on an existing 1616 Dutch engraving by Simon van de Passe. Philip Barbour, in his book Pocahontas and Her World, presents evidence to support this conclusion: “A European portrait-painter of 1616-1617 would surely have noticed that Pocahontas was 'brown’ or 'tawny,’ like the rest of her people. But the color of her skin in the portrait is clearly European, and her hair is a European brown, not an Indian black. Relying only on the engraving, a painter-copyist would not have recognized his own error.”
 In both the National Portrait Gallery and Senate portraits, the painted legend at the base of the picture erroneously identifies Pocahontas’s husband with the Christian name “Tho:” for Thomas, whereas the engraving by van de Passe correctly lists him as “Joh:” for John.
Henry S. Wellcome, an Indiana native who lived for many years in London, apparently commissioned the Senate’s oil copy for exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. After the fair, the picture was displayed at the U.S. Capitol. It was officially presented to the Senate by Wellcome in 1899.
1. Philip L. Barbour, Pocahontas and Her World (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), 233.