Hugo Grotius, a Portuguese carrack, and the vicissitudes of the world
This talk focuses on the capture of the rich Portuguese cargo ship Santa Catarina by Dutch privateers near present-day Singapore in 1603. This event compelled the legal thinker Hugo Grotius to write a lengthy justification, which later morphed into one of the foundational texts of international law. Through a close reading of Grotius’ early work, including a print series he made in collaboration with Jacques de Gheyn II, I will ask how the global circulation of objects informed early modern legal thought, and why this may matter to art history.
Elsje van Kessel is Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of St Andrews. She is the author of The Lives of Paintings: Presence, Agency, and Likeness in Venetian Art of the Sixteenth Century (De Gruyter, 2017). Her work has also been published in leading journals, including Art History, Renaissance Studies, and the Journal of the History of Collections. Elsje works on the interpretation, circulation, and display of art, especially in Venice, wider Italy, and the Iberian world. She is interested in such themes and issues as object biographies, archives, materiality, early museums, devotional and ritual practices, writing on art, and portraiture. Her current book project, for which she was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, examines the legal and ethical repercussions of the maritime circulation of art objects in the intersections of the Portuguese, English, and Dutch maritime expansion.
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