Individuals and Cities in Global History

Posted on August 3, 2017



H545 Humanities Building

PG Masterclass on ‘Individuals and Cities in Global History: Emmanuel Ximenez and Early Modern Antwerp’ (Sven Dupré and Christine Göttler)

The Ximenez d'Aragão were among the great Portuguese New Christian merchant houses whose overseas trading network extended to India, Africa, Brazil, and the Spanish Americas. The involvement of the Portuguese merchant community in maritime trade was instrumental in the rise of Antwerp as a 'world city' where new goods, new merchandise, and new knowledge and information were circulated and exchanged. Located in close proximity to the stock exchange (the city's economic centre) and the Sint-Jacobskerk (Antwerp's wealthiest parish church), the Ximenez house, with its impressive façade, was a major landmark on Antwerp's most splendid street, the Meir. A period visitor would have seen this house as evidence of the Portuguese contribution to the transformation of Antwerp into the greatest city of commerce in the north (before the rise of Amsterdam) and a centre of the manufacture and trade in luxury goods.

The 1617 inventory of Emmanuel Ximenez offers a window onto this world. Notable items in the inventory include a library of almost 1000 books with a heavy concentration of alchemical, astrological and mathematic works; the first space dedicated to the storage of porcelain documented for Antwerp; and works of art, including Peter Paul Rubens's first maritime allegory, "Birth of Venus", which was probably designed according to Ximenez's wishes. The inventory provides a unique opportunity to examine the interrelationships between mercantile activity, intellectual inquiry, practices of kinship and religion, and engagement in conspicuous consumption within the cosmopolitan urban culture of early modern Antwerp.

Sven Dupré and Christine Göttler are lead investigators in a project that aims to publish a transcription, translation and analysis of the 1617 inventory. The project is supported by a rich, open-access website that contains, among much else, an introduction to the inventory and short descriptions of the objects in the inventory, from ceramics to clothing to exotica.


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