In 1679, Prince Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen (1604-1679), former governor-general of Dutch Brazil, presented Louis XIV with a lavish gift that included eight tapestry cartoons, which—he effused—would enable the French King “to see Brazil without crossing the ocean.” The resulting tapestry series—called The Old Indies—would circulate widely in the eighteenth century, finding its way into collections in Paris, Rome, St. Petersburg and Valletta. Despite the popularity of The Old Indies, the political and artistic discourse that spurred Maurits’s gift has not been fully explored, perhaps because Maurits died shortly after the gift was given.
This talk will situate Maurits’s gift to Louis XIV within the context of late seventeenth-century inter-European politics, when heightened tensions between France, the Dutch Republic and Brandenburg necessitated cautious diplomacy. During this volatile time, Maurits’s gift had to be carefully crafted to appeal to the French king’s artistic tastes, which were closely bound to his politic ambitions. The Old Indies cartoons, which showcased the natural wealth and abundance of the former Dutch colony in Brazil, would have entertained the king’s absolutist sensibilities on a number of levels, making them fitting additions to his collection.
Carrie Anderson is an Assistant Professor of Art History at Middlebury College in Vermont and a 2018/2019 visiting Fulbright Scholar at the University of Amsterdam. Her current book project, Gift Exchange in the Early Modern Netherlands: Imagining Diplomacy at Home and Abroad, repositions Dutch inter- and intracultural diplomacy within the array of texts, images, and objects that shaped the practice.