STILL LIFE WITH EBONY CHEST, ANTONIO DE PEREDA, SPANISH c. 1611-78, 1652, OIL ON CANVAS, 80 x 94 CM, HERMITAGE MUSEUM, SAINT PETERSBURG – TAASA Review March 2018

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This article was originally found in the March 2018 edition of TAASA Review (Volume 27, Issue 1, Page 4).

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This widening engagement with other cultures is nicely captured in a still life by the Spaniard Antonio de Pereda (1611-78) which shows a variety of exotic objects ­ an ebony box from Africa, Chinese ceramics, a richly woven cloth and a pot containing the new drink, chocolate, which came from South America.

At the same time, increasing contact with unfamiliar cultures required the development of new modes of cross-cultural diplomacy, especially when the aim was to gain favour at royal courts.

The consequences of European inattention to such matters were humiliatingly evident in 1498, when gifts from the Portuguese voyager Vasco da Gama to the Zamorin of Calicut, such as coral beads, honey and simple striped cloth, were deemed unacceptable...