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Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and…

Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World (2008)

by Timothy Brook

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3411032,181 (3.71)34
  1. 00
    The Coffee Trader by David Liss (Limelite)
    Limelite: Fiction, but same era and locale and the subject is global trade. Only the emphasis is on manipulations and maneuverings.
  2. 00
    Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (myshelves)
    myshelves: Historical novel featuring Vermeer.

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» See also 34 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Timothy Brook uses Vermeer's paintings as a starting point to explain the growing global trade in the 17th century. While Vermeer painted only Dutch people, mostly from the city of Delft itself, he shows products from around the world, from America, Africa and Asia - only Australia was still missing in the European perception. Beaver hats from Canada, porcelain/china from China, tobacco and silver from South and Central America, spices from South East Asia. Brook has written an entertaining tour of the world with Vermeer as his prompter. As Vermeer did not depict any foreigners, Brook's scheme of using Vermeer as a guide breaks down when he talks about the first exotic foreign visitors. They were still to rare a sight to make their way to Delft and into a portrait by Vermeer.

A promising read that is even better executed in the author's follow-up book about Mr Selden's Map of China that covers a lot of the same ground and shares some of the protagonists. ( )
  jcbrunner | Oct 30, 2015 |
Several Vermeer paintings and related art works are examined for culturally relevant objects depicted within, to then show how those objects represented important global trade developments in Vermeer's era. The initial focus is on his native city of Delft, and more broadly the Dutch in their Golden Age of sea trade. Attention turns to China, and the namesake porcelain which prompted the mad dash eastward. Jesuitical ambitions by the Spanish and Portuguese gets much play here as well. Accidents and encounters at sea, as pulled from memoirs of the period, add spice to the narrative. Interesting and enlightening. Recommend. ( )
  JamesMScott | Aug 3, 2015 |
An intriguing slant on history, Timothy Brook tells of how he first became acquainted with the works of Vermeer as a teenager touring around Holland. He selects five of the artist's paintings, along with three other works by Vermeer's contemporaries, and looks at various items depicted therein. He investigates these items more closely to show how, though they may seem commonplace, they also betoken the extraordinary trade and commercial networks that had already been formed around the world by the mid-seventeenth century. On the way he throws in potted histories of the European colonisation of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the development of trade between Europe and Japan and China.
Occasionally rather contrived, on balance this proved an engaging book ( )
  Eyejaybee | May 1, 2013 |
In the manner of James Burke’s "Connections" for PBS, Brook tells the fascinating story of European contact and establishing commercial trade partnerships with people and cultures from Asia to Canada. Highly readable history of the Dutch East India Company, European politics, and the mutual exchange of influence and impact between Europeans and the world beyond.

This is the way one should learn history.

Author is professor of Chinese history at Oxford University and has written 6 vol. History of China that I’d like to get hold of. ( )
  Limelite | Dec 9, 2012 |
Brooks uses the objects and actions shown in scenes painted by Vermeer to spark an exploration of the history of European exploration and conquest. The hat in question, of the beaver felt returned to fashion because trade with North America had provided a new supply of pelt, leads to discussion of the exploration of Canada, the search for the Northwest Passage and related topics. Good for a sense of the era and some interesting details, but not a systematic work. The author is actually a specialist in Chinese history.
  ritaer | Jul 24, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Timothy Brookprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eames, BobCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vermeer, JohannesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Our arrivals at meaning and at value are momentary / pauses in the ongoing dialogue with others from which / meaning and value spring. - Gary Tomlinson, Music in Renaissance Magic
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The summer I was twenty, I bought a bicycle in Amsterdam and cycled southwest across the Low Countries on what would be the final leg of a journey that took me from Dubrovnik on the Adriatic to Ben Nevis in Scotland.
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"In one painting, a Dutch military Officer leans toward a laughing girl. In another, a woman at a window weighs pieces of silver. In a third, fruit spills from a porcelain bowl onto a Turkish carpet. Vermeer's images haunt us with their beauty and mystery--what stories lie behind these exquisitely rendered moments? As Timothy Brook shows us in Vermeer's Hat, these pictures, which seem so intimate, actually open doors onto a rapidly expanding world." "The dashing officer's hat is made of beaver fur, which European explorers got from Native Americans in exchange for weapons. Beaver pelts, in turn, financed the voyages of sailors seeking new routes to China. There--with silver mined in Peru--Europeans would purchase, by the thousands, the porcelains so often shown in Dutch paintings of this time." "Timothy Brook traces the rapidly growing web of trade that might bring a beaver pelt, a Turkish carpet, or a Chinese bowl to a sitting room in Delft. The wharves of Holland, wrote a French visitor, were "an inventory of the possible." Vermeer's Hat shows just how rich this inventory was, and how the urge to acquire such things was refashioning the world more thoroughly than anyone quite realized. It offers us a rich new understanding both of Vermeer's paintings and of the era they portray."--From publisher description.… (more)

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