Christina Anderson will give a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, December 7, at 12 pm. Her talk is entitled “Diamonds, Sugar, and Art: Flemish Merchants in the Early Modern World.”

Although historians have largely overlooked them, Flemish (southern Netherlandish) merchants formed a vital and dynamic trading diaspora between 1450 and 1650. The sophisticated cosmopolitan culture that they brought with them to the trading posts in which they settled across Europe and the globe consisted of a distinctive mix of commerce and art. This combination had a wider and important impact on the development of European culture as a whole in this period. Flemish cosmopolitanism manifested itself, for example, in the large number of paintings that were imported in the Canary Islands and Madeira during the height of the sugar trade there. In sixteenth-century Venice, moreover, Flemish merchants were important patrons of painters and musicians and their participation in artistic and literary circles there formed part of their strategy of establishing social status in their adopted home. This talk will provide an overview of the formation and reach of the Flemish merchant diaspora. It will then analyse some specific examples of the cultural activities of Flemish merchants abroad and, finally, outline what happened to the diaspora, and its Flemish cosmopolitanism, in the seventeenth century.

Christina Anderson is the Research Fellow in the Study of Collecting at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford and a Research Fellow at Bard Graduate Center. She specializes in the history of the decorative and fine arts, collecting, trade, and travel, with a particular emphasis on the intersection of art, commerce, and values in the early modern period. Her first book on the Flemish merchant Daniel Nijs and his brokering of the sale of the Gonzaga art collection to Charles I of England in 1627, titled The Flemish Merchant of Venice (Yale UP, 2015), was named one of Christie’s 11 best art books of the year. Her current book project, on the Flemish merchant diaspora 1450–1650, explores the ways in which these merchants acted as cultural diffusers and wielded cultural influence through their patronage and collecting practices. She is a prolific editor of scholarly books—she is responsible for no less than 13 volumes that will be published between 2016 and 2019—on early modern merchants as collectors, on the cultural history of furniture, and on the cultural history of collecting. She holds a doctorate in Art History from the University of Oxford and has held a number of prestigious awards, most recently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. Before taking up her position in Oxford, she founded an art and antiques research consultancy in London. At Bard Graduate Center, Anderson will be completing her second book manuscript.