Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries

During the 16th century, Portuguese sailors braved international waters to create a global trading network that extended from Europe to Brazil, Africa, the Persian Gulf, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China and Japan. This naval empire connected civilizations from all the known continents, transforming commerce and initiating unprecedented cultural exchange.

“Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries” explored the artistic achievements that flourished when these sailors exposed new creative techniques and imagery to the world as they transported goods from port to port. The most ambitious in the Sackler’s 19-year history, the exhibition presented approximately 250 objects produced by each of the cultures touched by Portugal’s early trade routes.

Initially displayed in princely “cabinets of wonder”—predecessors of the modern museum—and other royal and aristocratic collections and now scattered in museums and private collections throughout the world, the paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, maps, early books and other objects assembled in the exhibition provide a rich image of a “new world” during its formation.