Institut für Kunstgeschichte

Emmanuel Ximenez

Reading the Inventory: The Worlds and Possessions of the Portuguese Merchant-Banker Emmanuel Ximenez (1564-1632)


Funded by: Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant (FP7 Marie Curie IRG no. 256522, Christine Göttler)
Funding duration: July 2010 – June 2014

Lehrstuhl für Kunstgeschichte der Neuzeit:
Prof. Dr. Christine Göttler, Dr. Sarah Moran, Aleksandra Zdravkovic

Collaborative partner:
Prof. Sven Dupré, Dr. Sean Nelson, Max Planck Institute of the History of Science, Berlin

Project Website:
http://ximenez.unibe.ch

This collaborative project investigates the possessions, collecting activities, and knowledge practices of the Portuguese merchant-banker Emmanuel Ximenez (1564–1632), using the 1617 inventory of the moveable goods belonging to Ximenez and his wife Isabel da Veiga (d. 1617) as a point of departure. Located in close proximity to the stock exchange (the city’s economic center) 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. The Ximenez d’Aragão were among the great Portuguese families who participated in the carreira da Índia, and whose overseas trade network extended to India, Africa, Brazil, and the Spanish Americas. The involvement of the Portuguese in maritime trade was instrumental in the rise of Antwerp to a ‘world city’ where new goods, new merchandise, and new information were circulated and exchanged. In turn, the flow of commodities from European and overseas markets, along with the competition among highly specialized artists and craftsmen, affected Antwerp’s visual and material culture and made the city into a center for artists’ knowledge and expertise.

In contemporary sources Emmanuel Ximenez is mentioned as one of  Antwerp’s most knowledgeable merchants in economic matters, and he himself considered the members of the Portuguese nation to be the “natural protectors” of certain crafts, such as herbalists, confectioners, diamond cutters, and pearl drillers. Ximenez’s own interests in alchemical and artisanal processes, in particular the alchemy of glass, are amply documented in his correspondence with the Florentine alchemist and glassmaker Antonio Neri (1576-1614), who was Ximenez’s guest in Antwerp between 1604 and 1611. In the Arte Vetraria of 1612, the first printed book on glassmaking, Neri describes his host as having “universal knowledge in all science, more than any man I met or knew in the Netherlands.”

The 1617 inventory offers a window onto the rich material and intellectual environments of the merchant elite of early seventeenth-century Antwerp, in which Emmanuel Ximenez was an important actor. Most noteworthy among the almost fifty rooms of the house recorded in the inventory are the library of more than 1000 volumes with an emphasis on “chymical,” medical and astrological works but which also included a significant number of books on architecture and fortifications, maritime voyages as well as spirituality and religion; the “Distiller- or Alchimiecamer,” used predominantly for the making of medicinal waters and oils; and the “porceleynkamerken,” the first space dedicated to the storage of porcelain documented for Antwerp. Particularly noteworthy among his collection of luxury objects were the mathematical instruments, some created by the Antwerp mathematician and instrument maker Michiel Coignet; the rich and varied holdings of silverware; the fine collection of jewelry and of sumptuous clothing items; and the works of art. Ximenez favored works produced by Antwerp artists and seemed to have had a particular liking for paintings on copper (especially representations of fires), representations of the Three Magi, and female nudes; his collection included a Susanna and the Elders and a Hercules and the Centaurs by Frans Floris as well as a Birth of Venus by Rubens (formerly Potsdam, Sanssouci), described in Ximenez’s inventory as a “large painting on canvas with a blue silk curtain in front.”