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

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In the hands of an award-winning historian, Vermeer's dazzling paintings become windows that reveal how daily life and thought from Delft to Beijing were transformed in the seventeenth century, when the world first became global.
A painting shows a military officer in a Dutch sitting room, talking to a laughing girl. In another, a woman at a window weighs pieces of silver. Vermeer's images captivate us with their beauty and mystery: What stories lie behind these stunningly rendered moments? As Timothy Brook shows us, these pictures, which seem so intimate, actually offer a remarkable view of a rapidly expanding world. The officer's dashing hat is made of beaver fur, which European explorers got from Native Americans in exchange for weapons. Those 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. Moving outward from Vermeer's studio, Brook traces the web of trade that was spreading across the globe.
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 the goods of distant lands was refashioning the world more powerfully than we have yet understood.

About the Author


Timothy Brook completed this book while a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. He holds the Shaw Chair in Chinese Studies at Oxford University and is the author of many books, including the award-winning "Confusions of Pleasure."

Praise For…


"Elegant and quietly important…. Brook does more than merely sketch the beginnings of globalization and highlight the forces that brought our modern world into being; rather, he offers a timely reminder of humanity's interdependence."   —Seattle Times

"This book will certainly make you look differently at Vermeer's paintings, as you imagine the greater context of the time period and ponder the acquisition of seemingly minor objects. An insightful read for historians and art historians alike and a fine guide into the rewards of studying material culture."--Library Journal

"Brook utilizes the props in Vermeer's tableaux as starting points to journey into the cultural and economic world of the time: A teacup pours forth the history of the porcelain trade with China, while a felt hat is traced to beaver trapping in North America.  It's a fascinating approach to cultural history, providing new ways of thinking about the origins of commonplace objects." —Entertainment Weekly, A grade, EW Pick

"Marvelous….The tidbits are fascinating in their own right, but Brook has a larger point, relevant to our own time: We need to narrate the past in a way that recognizes connections, not just divisions." Bookpage

“…effective and illuminating….A magic-carpet conducted by a genial, learned host.” Kirkus Reviews

"Brook...accomplishes his task...with authority and economy.” Booklist

"Vermeer's Hat is a deftly eclectic book, in which Timothy Brook uses details drawn from the great painter's work as a series of entry points to the widest circles of world trade and cultural exchange in the seventeenth century. From the epicenter of Delft, Brook takes his readers on a journey that encompasses Chinese porcelain and beaver pelts, global temperatures and firearms, shipwrecked sailors and their companions, silver mines and Manila galleons. It is a book full of surprising pleasures." — Jonathan Spence, author of The Death of Woman Wang, In Search of Modern China and The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci

“[Vermeer's Hat] is an absolutely wonderful idea, beautifully executed (and I wish I'd thought of it). In Timothy Brook's hands, Vermeer's paintings really do become windows on the past, illuminating a fascinating period in which the world was being remade by global trade. —  Tom Standage, author of A History of the World in Six Glasses

"Thanks to Brook’s roving and insatiably curious gaze, Vermeer’s small scenes widen onto the broad panorama of world history: everything from shipwrecks and massacres to global weather patterns and the history of tobacco. The result is like one of Vermeer’s trademark reflective pearls that magically reveals a world beyond itself. A more entertaining guide to world history - and to Vermeer - is difficult to imagine." —Ross King, author of The Judgment of Paris, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling and Brunelleschi’s Dome

“For those who think they have mastered all the ins and outs of the seventeenth century Netherlands and particularly the country portrayed by the marvelously stay-at-home Dutch painters, Timothy Brook's fine book provides a shock. By way of Vermeer's pictures, he takes us through doorways into a suddenly wider universe, in which tobacco, slaves, spices, beaver pelts, China bowls, and South American silver are wrenching together hitherto well-insulated peoples. We hear behind the willow-pattern calm the crash of waves and cannon.  A common humanity with a shared history comes about, with handshakes and treaties, shipwrecks and massacres, as trade expands and the world shrinks.”      —Anthony Bailey, author of Vermeer: A View of Delft



Product Details
ISBN: 9781596914445
ISBN-10: 1596914440
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication Date: December 26th, 2007
Pages: 272
Language: English

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