This book examines the volume, contexts and mechanisms of trade in visual images in Early Modern Europe
This collection focuses overtly on the internal dynamics and links between art markets in the Early Modern period, but presupposes that art objects – here visual images – are objects of desire. During this period, however, desire changed; a great deal more of these objects came to be made for ordinary domestic consumption, including devotional purposes, than as tokens of the magnificence, piety, cultivation or learning of individual commissioners. Probably most still were commissioned, but to satisfy tastes that, though differentiated internationally, were widely shared within one country or region. Most too were commissioned at a distance, by agents, and were moved between maker and end-point distributor by specialised traders, many of whom – though far from all – were large-scale operators. The dominant focus of contributors here is therefore on the agents of this distance trade, its mechanisms and its impacts in terms of both satisfying and subtly shaping tastes, all at a range of prices. Measurement and mappings are aspects of this traffic. Focus was sharpened by concentrating on three questions: what is currently known about the number of images, whether in the form of paintings, prints, small sculptures or woven textiles, that circulated in early modern Europe? Through what channels and networks were they distributed? And what were the economic, social and institutional contexts?
Neil De Marchi is Professor of Economics at Duke University. His recent writing has been on the circumstances in which key players in contemporary art markets operate and the behaviours that stem from these constraints.
Sophie Raux is Associate Professor of Early Modern Art History at the University of Lille (France). Her research focuses mostly on the circulation and consumption of images and art objects in the Southern Low Countries and France.
"The authors of this volume are to be praised for the wide range of newly uncovered source material, which has not only yielded an array of new factual details but also new analyses of those facts. Although well chosen, the concentration on major European trade centres would have benefitted from more geographical variation. The chapters provide detailed and nuanced analyses of economic strategies used by players on the art markets, while the comparisons between the art market and other markets are thought provoking and among the highlights of the volume. Overall, issues of taste and connoisseurship are eloquently integrated with strategies of trade and profit. Despite a slight emphasis on economic interests, the book lives up to the promise made in the Introduction: artworks are like other commodities, while they are also quite unique. The authors themselves have indeed demonstrated 'freedom of creation' and 'freedom of taste' by integrating in a new and fresh manner different types of sources and analyses." (Marlise Rijks, in: Historians of Netherlandish Art, http://www.hnanews.org/hna/bookreview/current/vl_Moving-Pictures0416.html)