Vermeer's Hat : The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World, Paperback Book

Vermeer's Hat : The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


In one painting, a Dutch military officer leans toward a laughing girl.

In another, a woman at a window weighs pieces of silver.

In a third, fruit spills from a porcelain bowl onto a Turkish carpet.

The officer's dashing hat is made of beaver fur, which European explorers got from Native Americans in exchange for weapons.

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 porcelain so often shown in Dutch paintings of this time.

Vermeer's haunting images hint at the stories behind these exquisitely rendered moments.

As Timothy Brook shows us in Vermeer's Hat, these pictures, which seem so intimate, actually open doors onto a rapidly expanding world.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9781846681202

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Timothy Brook uses Vermeer's paintings as a starting point to explain the growing global trade in the 17th century. While Vermeer painted only Dutch people, mostly from the city of Delft itself, he shows products from around the world, from America, Africa and Asia - only Australia was still missing in the European perception. Beaver hats from Canada, porcelain/china from China, tobacco and silver from South and Central America, spices from South East Asia. Brook has written an entertaining tour of the world with Vermeer as his prompter. As Vermeer did not depict any foreigners, Brook's scheme of using Vermeer as a guide breaks down when he talks about the first exotic foreign visitors. They were still to rare a sight to make their way to Delft and into a portrait by Vermeer.A promising read that is even better executed in the author's follow-up book about Mr Selden's Map of China that covers a lot of the same ground and shares some of the protagonists.