PAINTER AND PATRON
THE MARITIME SILK ROAD
IN THE CÓDICE CASANATENSE
by Peter Gordon & Juan José Morales
The Códice Casanatense, or Codex Casanatense 1889 as it is more formally known, is a 16th-century Indo-Portuguese collection of some 76 captioned watercolours now held in the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome. Deposited there at the beginning of the 18th century, it resided in almost complete obscurity for two and half centuries and was not brought to scholarly attention until the 1950s. It has never been discussed in detail for the general reader.
Painted by an Indian artist, and annotated in Portuguese, the illustrations are a contemporaneous Asian view of the peoples, costumes and customs of a region extending from Africa to China. This region, crossed by Portuguese explorers and traders, maps on what is now commonly called the Maritime Silk Road. Lively and evocative, the illustrations of the Códice Casanatense provide a human window into a world in which Asia dominated and that Europeans were only just entering.
This book has been written with the support of Italian Cultural Institute and the Consulate-General of Italy in Hong Kong.
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Peter Gordon and Juan José Morales are co-authors of The Silver Way: China, Spanish America and the Birth of Globalisation, 1565-1815 (Penguin 2017).