During the workshop, I spoke with the group about treasures, travels and the history of the Dutch East India Company. The books from the seventeenth and eighteenth century helped us to get a sense of how the world started to become smaller in the seventeenth century, through trading and travelling. At the same time, they were beautiful historical objects made out of precious material, such as Moroccan leather, silks (probably from China or India) and gold. It was a unique experience to be able to touch these books, and see them in close-up: they were pieces of history, and brought the story about the Dutch East India Company to life.
Whilst Rembrandt and his clients lived in Amsterdam and indulged in collecting expensive ‘treasures from the East’, other – often poor – Dutchmen spent months working on ships to meet and trade with other people. During the workshop we learnt that besides exchanging goods, they were also exchanging knowledge and tastes: travellers studied other languages; Europeans learnt about Indian medicine through a Portuguese doctor in Goa; spices made Western dishes far tastier; Japanese robes became a ‘scientific’ fashion.
After the workshop we met in the East Galleries to try out the new trails developed by the group. Many thanks, West Ealing group, for your stories and other input during the workshop! I hope you enjoyed your visit and you feel inspired by the books when working on your art work for the Treasures from the East exhibition.