Woman Holding a Balance The change of Catharina, Vermeer ’ s wife The darkened studio The painting of the last judgement – the moral discrimination
The painting of the Last Judgment The only suggestion of movement is the painting of the Last Judgment in the Flemish style hanging on the wall behind Catharina. Her head and upper torso are framed by an apocalyptic vision of Christ with his arms raised, summoning the dead to arise and be judged by him. (p. 152)
The moral discrimination As the woman weighs her coins, so she measures her own behavior in the light of the divine judgment awaiting her at the resurrection. It is worth knowing that some artists used the image of a woman weighing coins to condemn the contemporary obsession with silver, not just the sin of worldliness. (p. 155)
But Vermeer bathed Catharina in light, making her a figure of trust and conscience. She handles money, but her calculating of the family ’ s wealth is as honorable and wholesome as the fecundity of natural increase that her pregnancy signifies. Vermeer ’ s depiction is positive, in keeping with the new ethic of accumulation in seventeenth-century Holland. (p. 155)
Let ’ s direct our attention instead to what the real woman in this painting is actually doing. She is holding a balance preparatory to weighing something. Is she weighing Pearls? Gold? Actually, she is weighing silver. And silver is the subject of this chapter!
Weighing coins is not something we do today, but it was an essential part of economic transactions in the seventeenth century. (p. 153) The careful householder had to weigh her coins. The large silver coin (the ducat) on Catharina ’ s table is our next door into the mid-seventeenth-century world.
To moralist from Europe to China, silver created the illusion of wealth but was not itself wealth. “ merely the measure of wealth. ” (p. 156) But once silver was present in the economy, most people had no choice but to use it, whether to buy their food or pay their taxes. They also had no choice but to acquire it by selling things or their own labor. Silver became unavoidable.
Chinese: import silver to compensate for their inadequate money supply. Europeans: export silver to buy their way into the Asian market.
Let us suppose the silver in Woman Holding a Balance came was from the major world source of silver, Spanish America, either New Spain (today ’ s Mexico) or Peru (which in the seventeenth century encompassed today ’ s Bolivia.) Let us suppose it came from Potosí. The silver from Potosí
Potosí means “uninhabitable.” But after the silver mines were discovered, Potos í became the largest city in the Americas almost overnight.
China was the great global destination for European silver for two reasons. (1)The power of silver to buy gold in Asian economies was higher than it was in Europe. (2)European merchants had little else to sell in the China market.
The Dutch shipped a vast amount of silver to Asia during the seventeenth century. The silver paid for commodities unavailable in Europe that sold well in the home market. Spices (the early years) → textiles (the 17 th century) → tea & coffee (the 18 th century)
Manila Silver flowed east from Potosí → Europe → Asia but that was not the only route it took to China, nor even the most important. Twice the volume of silver that went east also went west : crossed the Pacific to Manila. So Manila became the place where the two hemispheres of the seventeenth- century globe joined.
When the first Spaniards in Manila found some three hundred Chinese merchants already there, their relations started well since each side sensed that the other might be a profitable trading partner. In 1567, a new emperor lifted the ban on maritime commerce. It was a sign that the pressure of foreign demand was having its effect. The bulk of the commodities went out of the harbor and the silver came in, tied China to the outside world.
Spain was an empire purely of trade, not of conquest. → The Spanish imagines their future in East Asia rather differently. At first, there were two proposal to the King and claimed that they should conquer China, but Philip wasn ’ t persuaded.
Governor of the Philippines gave his contemptuous view of Chinese, and thought that it was possible to conquer China. → The another proposal was that they could send Jesuit missionaries to infiltrate the country. Why Jesuit missionaries? Why Jesuit missionaries? Petitioners also assured King Phillip, it was not about “ sordid lucre ”, but “ honorable deeds. ” Much was at stake and time was of the essence. They also warned that the Chinese are each day becoming more wary, and more on their guard.
The oddest point that the argument made for invasion was ……. China was in danger of falling into Muslim hands. Once Muslims controlled China, Spain would be cut out of the Chinese market forever. Why this point? Because of the memory of the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain in 1492 was still so strong. The competition between Spain and Ottoman empires was fierce.
They wanted to override King Philip ’ s calmer consideration through this appeal. However, it didn ’ t. He claimed that it was impossible for Spain to conquer China. The wealth of China would have to be tapped through trade. Spain used Manila to be the base of trading.
Manila was rebuilt to be a heavily fortified city. The aria inside the massive stone walls was exclusively for Spaniards. Chinese with whom they conducted business should remain outside. Initially, Chinese came seasonally. As the volume and complexity of the trade grew, they could stay through the year, and that was what they called ” cramming winter. ”
Alcaiceria, Parian, Pali? → In 1581, Spain restricted Chinese to a “ Chinese ghetto ”. They made the Chinese stay there at night. Sangley? → The Chinese who conducted trade in Manila. In fact, without these Sangleys, the City cannot get along or maintain itself because they are masters of all trades.
The massacre in 1603 Incidents that some Chinese visited Manila to prove the truth of Gold Mountain made Spaniards worried. Spain and China went bad and caused lots of catastrophe and hatred, and it finally went to the massacre of Chinese. Incidents that some Chinese visited Manila to prove the truth of Gold Mountain made Spaniards worried. Spain and China went bad and caused lots of catastrophe and hatred, and it finally went to the massacre of Chinese.Results? The massacre cautioned the Chinese government against opening the door to trade with the outside world too wide. BUT?
Manila mattered to everyone who traded there. WHY? It was the point of commercial contact between the economics of 17 th Europe and China, and once silver was flowing, not even a massacre could break the contact. The trade in Manila made many Chinese into the business, as Zhou Qiyuan notes ……
The treasured goods the Manila galleons carried back to Mexico, the Spanish exchanged their own mountain of silver. According to the official records, in the first half of the seventeenth century, the Spanish galleons carried just short of three quarters of a million kilograms of silver to Manila.
NOT ALL this silver went to Fujian. Some got diverted to Macao and passed through Portuguese hands. But the most of it went to Fujian and disappeared into Chinese economy. A potion of the silver from America that came east from Europe via the Indian Ocean, but the bulk of it was shipped directly west across the Pacific.
HOWEVER, the importation of silver on this scale highlighted the awkward distance in China between public policy and private commerce. The government worked to discourage the private accumulation of wealth among the society marginal for fear that this wealth might feed the forces of rebellion, while private mercantile families amassed vast fortunes by trading abroad.
Silver flowed easily into the Chinese economy because it was needed to supplement the small bronze coins that were used for small transactions. The amount of silver coming to China was so great that the Chinese believed its supply was endless. However, the silver run out, or at least down, it would, as we shall see.
Silver gilded the Chinese world... Silver was the standard for of money in China and was also the form in which the Ming regime collected taxes. Chinese were so much deceived by the amount of silver coming into China that they think its supply was endless! The Franciscan missionary said, “This is not following teaching; it is following silver.”
The influences of silver flow in China: It created a potential for accumulation and liquidity that encouraged ostentatious ( 虛 榮性 ) spending and social competition. People who could afford them embraced its arrival, creating a new wave of luxury spending which excited a powerful backlash in early 17 th century…
Magistrate Zhang Tao ( 張 濤 ) was one of those appalled by the silver economy. He found that the ethical foundations that once held society together were crumbling, and the reciprocal duties that had once sustained village life were no longer observed. He blamed it all on the lust for silver… “One man in a hundred is rich, while nine out of ten are impoverished.” 「富者百人而一，貧者十人而九」 The result, in Zhang’s summary was, that “the Lord of Silver rules heaven and the God of Cash reigns over the earth.” 金令司 天，錢神卓地
The spring rains had washed away the local crop which in turn forced the price of rice to rise… In normal times, per Chinese “peck”(dou) costs less than half a “mace”(qian). 1 斗 = 不到半錢 (1.875 克的銀 ) After spring rains, the price almost triple to 1.3 qian (4.6 grams) At this point, Zhang stepped in and released the stocks of rice in the county granary at below-market rates, forcing down the market price and eased the crisis long enough for it to resume to regular prices again.
According to Brook, What devastated China in the 1640s was not its monetary system ( 貨 幣制度 ) so much as the impact of… cold weather virulent epidemics falling grain production huge military spending to hold back the Manchus to the north (P.175, second paragraph) Was the increase in the stock of silver circulating in China driving up prices?
Still, people blamed silver for harmful, negative economic behavior… Hoarding ( 貪汙 ) Undermined stability for the poor Encouraged wasteful extravagance among the rich
In Shanghai, the price of rice moved as below: 1620s—price ceiling started to move. 1639—a peck of rice=1.9 mace (6.6 grams per decaliter) 1642 spring—a peck of rice=5 mace (17.5 grams per decaliter) Stabled for a few years ranging from 7 to 10 grams per decaliter 1647—a peck of rice=14 grams
The connection of trade between the Spanish and the Chinese There were three sinkings that crippled trade in Manila: Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion San Ambrosio An outbound galleon back to Mexico Result: The entire system of trade in Manila collapsed.
Spanish ship Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (1570) Sebastian Hurtao de Corcuera Sebastian Hurtao de Corcuera
What’s worse… Spanish America was originally the supply of silver that funded the transpacific exchange, but it had begun to contract. In the mid-1610s, silver production in Potosi was already slipping, and by the 1630s, it was not possible to produce enough silver to cover all the purchases that Spanish merchants were making in Manila.
Japan in the 1620s… they came under a centralized authority in the control of the new Tokugawa regime. It banned Japanese from going abroad and pressured the Portuguese to stop bringing Europeans to Japan, especially missionaries. The only Europeans permitted to continue trading in Japan were the Dutch, and then only from a tiny island in the harbor of Nagasaki under tight restrictions.
Stories that seems unrelated… The Massacre of thousands of Chinese in the Philippines On 19 November 1639 On 19 November 1639 At the village of Calamba southeast of Manila At the village of Calamba southeast of Manila The story of Fulgencia Oraozco The story of Fulgencia Oraozco
Conclusion While all these stories were happening, Catharina probably didn’t know about the stories that happened with silver. The violence that wealth is capable of provoking is invisible in Woman Holding a Balance.