Lisbon in the 16th century became a unique destination for luxury goods.
It was an import-free port an initial stopping point where ships traded their cargo to avoid continuing on long trading routes.
The Lisbon authorities sold the goods on to other ships and buyers for a higher price, and as global trade routes and Portuguese networks expanded around the globe, the Lisbon court capitalized on its monopoly over African and Asian luxury goods brought to Portugal.
By the late 1500s, wealthy Europeans had become avid and well-informed shoppers.
Asian lacquers, Ming blue and white porcelain, and ivories, carved crystals, jewels and intricate goldsmith work from Ceylon and Goa were among the products which sold for extraordinary prices at exclusive shops located on the Rua Nova dos Mercadores in Lisbon.
Here one could also find medicines, drugs and spices from Portuguese Asia, and exotic animals, including wild turkeys from America.
The Rua Nova the most important commercial street in the city was the meeting point for everyone from indigenous Portuguese to Jews and black Africans.
New findings from archival research in Portugal will be presented for the first time in this volume. 19 essays by leading scholars (see details overleaf) will be illustrated with a stunning selection of the types of luxury objects which could be bought on the Rua Nova including ivories, rock crystal carvings and silver, from the Wallace Collection and on loan from leading collections in the United Kingdom and Portugal.
A highlight will be one of the Wallace Collection s great treasures, the moving rock crystal figure of Christ as the Good Shepherd, carved in Ceylon and exquisitely embellished with gold and gem mounts, probably in Goa.
This stunning object exemplifies both the quality of objects made for the luxury European market and how closely bound East and West were culturally and commercially, even at this early date in our modern history.Two of the most illuminating objects in the exhibition, the rarely seen late 16th-century paintings of the Rua Nova from Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire (collection of the Society of Antiquaries of London), are the only detailed early depictions of the street to have survived and are one of the most important art historical discoveries for Portugal to have been made in recent decades.
With their wealth of fascinating detail from traders, black and white, from all parts of the known world, down to a vignette of a dog killing an American turkey the paintings give us an unparalleled view of this lost street, reduced to rubble in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755"