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European grana) had been found in New Spain and to “cause as much as possible to be collected with dili­ gence.”21 And by the mid-sixteenth century the Spanish flotillas that traveled annually between the Americas and Spain were bringing literally tons of the dried insects to Europe. According to Jose de Acosta, a Spanish naturalist who recorded the flora and fauna of Peru, the shipments from Lima to Spain in 1587 included 5,677 arrobas (about 144,000 pounds, or 72 tons) of cochineal. Cochineal, along with gold and silver from the Americas, enabled the Spanish Crown to finance its empire, including the 1535 invasion of Tunis to fight the Turkish army of Süleyman the Great, while establishing its global monopoly and dominance of sea trade. Shipments of cochineal landed in Seville and later in Cádiz, until the eighteenth century the only ports that Spanish law allowed to receive them, as part of Spain’s efforts to control its monopoly on trade with

the Americas (see map, fig. 45). Once received at the Spanish ports, shiploads of cochineal were traded to the north, where the colorant was used in the thriving tapestry production of the Netherlands and France. To the east it colored the famous Venetian red velvets and silks that were traded throughout the world. An international set of merchants based in Spain played a major role in the distribution of American goods to the ­Middle East to supply the Ottoman Empire. Cochineal from the Americas was shipped in the Manila galleons, the huge Spanish carrack ships with enormous hulls that traveled between Mexico and the Philippines, and then along sea routes to China and via ancient overland silk routes to the Middle East. In the great period of international cultural exchange from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, cochineal was used in works of art in areas as far flung as the remote mountainous regions of Uzbekistan and the Indonesian archipelago.

46. Design attributed to Giovanni Battista Lodi da Cremona (Italian, flour­ ished 1540 – 1522), woven in the workshop of Willem de Pannemaker (Flemish, flourished 1535 – 78), Brussels. The Bridal Chamber of Herse, ca. 1550. From a set of eight tapestries depicting the story of Mercury and Herse. Wool, silk, silver, silver-gilt thread; 14 ft. 5 in. x 17 ft. 8 in. (4.4 x 5.4 m). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941 (41.190.135). Cochineal (American or Armenian) was found in the red dye in the border.

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Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color  

Elena Phipps The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Winter 2010 Volume LXVII, Number 3 Copyright © 2010 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art,...

Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color  

Elena Phipps The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Winter 2010 Volume LXVII, Number 3 Copyright © 2010 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art,...

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