Navigation auf


Kunsthistorisches Institut

Artistic Commerce and Confrontation in the Early Modern Portuguese and Spanish Empires


December 6-7, 2012 


University of Zurich, Switzerland


  • David Young Kim
  • Jens Baumgarten
  • Tristan Weddigen




This symposium aims to map out the most current and innovative research on the artistic commerce and confrontation that occurred in the global Portuguese and Spanish Empires, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415 to the arrival of the João VI’s court in Rio de Janeiro in 1808. We seek to examine how analysis of works of art, architecture and art literature pertinent to a colonial Iberian context might yield perspectives upon the interchange, admixtures or incompatibility of diverse ideas, materials, styles and subject matter in the early modern global world.

How did the travels of materials, patrons, artists, architects and objects shape the self-conception of the Portuguese and Spanish world empires? How might we better understand the historiographic treatment and implications of this artistic commerce? How might such an investigation help us dislodge assumptions concerning the role of works of art in constituting notions of territory and the position of the mobile self and viewer in that territory?

Themes that were explored, included: 

  • The rapport between the Portuguese colonial and mercantile empire and its Spanish, Ottoman, Mughal and African imperial counterparts;
  • The reception of traveling artists, works of art, and materials in varying and contrasting landscapes, climates and natural environments;
  • The historiography of global art history as it pertains to the Portuguese and Spanish world empires;
  • The intersection between cultural mobility and notions of style, either personal, regional or period;
  • The impact of migration of forms upon ideas and values concerning originals and copies;
  • Latin America, with an emphasis upon Brazil, as a middle ground and depot for diverse artists, styles and materials, not only those pertaining to Iberian colonizers, but also those regarding African, Asian and other European persons and objects;
  • The global-wide commerce and mobility of materials and artists in the early modern period;
  • Efficacy of magic, religious cults and pilgrimages in diverse maritime contexts.