9th Seminar Global Art History and Heritage: Claudia Swan
Prof. dr. Claudia Swan (Northwestern University): Stately Furnishings and Prized Possessions: Exchange, Piracy, and Collection in the Golden Age
What do the exploits of Piet Heyn have to do with taste? And what does the emergence of a taste for exotic goods have to do with state formation? Within a few remarkable decades at the outset of the 17th century – crucial decades in the formation of the Dutch Republic – the Netherlands became a hub of global traffic. The city of Amsterdam acquired the status of omphalos mundi, but the impact of trade and exchange in the East and West Indies was more widespread. Individual homes and collections, up to and including the residence of the stadholders in The Hague, were awash in foreign commodities, many of them marked by strangeness, or rarity. The Dutch laid claim to these novel goods in ways that other nations did not. Precious exotic goods such as porcelain, textiles, and furnishings were acquired through fair and unfair exchange, up to and including piracy, and were collected, displayed, and presented in ways that speak directly to the formation of the new state, the Dutch Republic. This talk recounts a few episodes in the history of how the state acquired goods; and the extent to which trade and piracy affected taste-looking in particular at paintings that captured this dynamic. In addition to addressing how state-sponsored looting affected Golden Age taste, this paper will also touch on the longer history of the matter of ownership of the House of Orange’s furniture.