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The treasures of Antwerp

An EU study studied the inventory of items belonging to one 17th century merchant. The collection — including books, scientific instruments, porcelain and art — shed light on the life and times of its former owner and his cosmopolitan society.
The treasures of Antwerp
Studying the catalogued collections of possessions owned by certain affluent historical individuals sheds light on the societies in which they lived. Manuel Ximenes (1564-1632), a Portuguese merchant banker and early 17th century resident of Antwerp, owned a superior example of such a collection.

The EU-funded XIMENES project aimed to study the collection, and also the associated interests and collection activities of its former owner. The initial basis of the study was to be the 1617 probate inventory of movable goods belonging to Ximenes and his wife. Such investigation was also intended to illustrate the learned culture of Antwerp and the broader international network of commercial exchange of which it was a part. The project ran out of the University of Bern between July 2010 and June 2014.

Study of the 1617 inventory revealed the rich intellectual and material environment of the time and those among Ximenes' social class. Highlights included around 1 000 volumes, consisting of numerous scientific and medical works, plus others on architecture and fortifications, spirituality and religion, and travel. The collection also incorporated the first space in Antwerp dedicated for storing porcelain. Other objects included mathematical instruments and rich examples of silverware, jewellery and clothing. Also listed were commissioned works of art, including the 'Birth of Venus' by Rubens.

The project illustrated the possessions of Ximenes, while showing values and trends of the broader elite-level mercantile society to which he belonged. The study also revealed aspects of Antwerp's history of global trade.

Related information

Keywords

Manuel Ximenes, Antwerp, probate inventory, commercial exchange, mercantile society
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