Institut für Kunstgeschichte
Funded by: Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant
Funding duration: July 2010 – June 2014
Awarded with a Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant this collaborative project, based at the Institute of Art History, University of Bern, investigates one of the most splendid collections in early seventeenth-century Antwerp, that of the Portuguese merchant-banker Emmanuel Ximenes (1564–1632), a neighbour and contemporary of Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640). Ximenes was praised by his contemporaries for his ‘universal knowledge of the sciences’, and his collection linked the spheres of art, alchemy, medicine, commerce, and religion as well as the cosmological, geographical, and natural-philosophical discoveries of the time. Emmanuel Ximenes collection included a remarkable number of the newest mathematical and optical instruments, many of them produced by the Antwerp mathematician and instrument maker Michiel Coignet; a ‘Distiller- or Alchimiecamer’, where he experimented, among others, with the making of glass; and a more than 1000-volume library with an emphasis on the newest astrological, mathematical, medical and chemical works. Ximenes further had a liking for paintings on copper (especially representations of fires) and mythological pictures by Flemish artists, and his collection included a Hercules with the Centaur by Frans Floris and a Birth of Venus by Rubens (formerly Potsdam, Sanssouci), described in Ximenes’ inventory as a ‘large painting on canvas with a blue silk curtain in front’.
Our aim is to use Ximenes’ collection as a point of departure to investigate collections and collecting activities in Antwerp in an era of political, religious, and cultural transformation and during a process of increasing aristocratization of the commercial elites. Moreover, this is the first study of a collection of a converso merchant-banker whose family was intimately involved in Antwerp’s global trade. From the mathematical and optical instruments, the books, artworks and artefacts we may conclude that Ximenes defined himself in terms of the new worlds made available through Portuguese navigational skills. Ximenes’ collection, we argue, was shaped by the Ximenes family’s involvement in global trade, their adherence to the Portuguese Nation, their converso background, and their Iberian identity. It evidences the Portuguese contribution to the rise of the city of Antwerp to the most important trading centre in the north and its continued presence as a centre of the manufacture of and trade with luxury goods.
Various activities and publications are planned within the project. A book-length study on Emmanuel Ximenes’s collection in its local and global contexts, planned and edited by Christine Göttler (Universität Bern) and Sven Dupré (Universiteit Gent) will conclude the project.
In connection with the project on the collection of Emmanuel Ximenes, an international and interdisciplinary conference took place May 12–14, 2011, at the University of Bern. For details see here