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Mercator Sapiens: Merchants as patrons and collectors of art in the Dutch Republic


Entry requirements

See Teaching and Examination Regulations.

Passive (reading) knowledge of Dutch required. Students from abroad are strongly advised to contact the teachers before the start of the class. See ‘Contact’ below.


During the prosperous Dutch “Golden Age”, merchants became more and more interested and involved in cultural activities. They emerged as influential patrons of the arts, architecture and literature, commissioning town palaces, country estates, gardens, sculpture, paintings and poetry. As wealthy collectors, they brought together large art galleries and libraries. The mercator sapiens, the learned merchant, has not been understood yet as a crucial factor in Dutch art and cultural history.
Looking closely at some significant cases, such as the families Trip, De Geer, Marselis and others, students will gain insight in the phenomenon of the mercator sapiens. Similarly, students will learn about the international cultural heritage of these merchants, who left so many traces abroad.

Course objectives

Students will gain:

  • insight in the cultural phenomenon of the mercator sapiens during the Dutch Republic (1550-1750)

  • insight into the cultural networks of these art patrons, their commissions and collections.

  • insight into the main theoretical literature about the subject, as well as case studies and primary sources.

  • knowledge of the cultural heritage of the mercator sapiens, both inside and outside of the Dutch Republic.

Students will be able to:

  • independently research aspects of the mercator sapiens culture and networks, using both literature on the subject as primary sources.

  • give a short presentation (15 minutes) on their research topic.

  • act as referents during other students’ presentations.

  • present their research findings in a well written, well structured academic paper of 5000 words. This paper will present the status quo of (international) research on the subject, as well as the results of the student’s research, arguing the research questions. It should be well referenced in footnotes and bibliography.


Please consult the timetable on the MA Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Excursion

Course load

Total course load for the course is 280 hours:

  • Seminar hours: 2 hrs weekly x 14 weeks = 28 hrs

  • Literature study: 90 hrs

  • Preparation time for presentation and power point: 35 hrs

  • Research and writing of paper: 125 hrs

  • Excursion: 6 hrs

Assessment method

  • Presentation (incl. powerpoint): 20% of final grade

  • Paper (5000 words, excl. footnotes and bibliography): 80% of final grade


Blackboard will be used to post announcements, the required reading list, powerpoints plus abstracts of the lectures, relevant events, and for submitting the assignment.


Margaret C. Jacob & Catherine Secretan, The Self-Perception of Early Modern Capitalists, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2009.

Specified articles will be assigned during the seminar.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: Please see the website Study in Leiden for information on how to apply/register for this course.

Students who are not in the MA Arts and Culture programme, but who would like to take this course as an optional course, please contact Mrs. Joëlle Koning MA the co-ordinator of studies.


Mrs. Dr. Roding
Mrs. Dr. M. Keblusek


Because of primary source material, at least good passive (reading) knowledge of Dutch is a requirement.