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Portuguese School

The triumph of the King of Cochin

Panel: 45,5 x 149 cm

introduction

Balthazar Springer, a commercial agent for Welser, was the first German to take part in the Portuguese ventures. He left with the great fleet of the Viceroy of India, Francisco de Almeida, who set sail for India in March 1505. The three largest merchant ships were fitted out by the merchant bankers of Augsburg and Nuremberg. Springer gave an account of his adventure which led him to Malindi on the east coast of Africa, before reaching Calicut in India. On the return journey, storms forced the ships to sail along the coasts of Ponta Algoa in Mozambique, Cape Town, Guinea and the Cape Verde Islands. They returned to Lisbon safe and sound at the end of 1506.

The account of Balthazar Springer’s journey was published soon after in several languages. He describes the populations encountered during the key stages of the voyage.
In 1508, Hans Burgkmair illustrated his compatriot's account with a series of six engravings forming a frieze approximately two metres long. This was hence the first “vision” of Africa and India, based on the notes and drawings brought back by an eyewitness.

The engravings feature essentially nude figures, sometimes enhanced with embellishments: feathers replace animal skins in this case and the features of the natives have been softened. The integration of these new images into a purely Western conception goes even further in “The Triumph of the King of Cochin", which extends the classical theme of the Romanised procession to the East. He returns to the triumphal theme with black musicians, tambourine players and trumpeters. There is a great evolution in this work, proving that a broad (exotic) visual autonomy has thus been mastered. This was to have a strong influence on the likes of the painter Dürer, who created his superb “charcoal study of a negro” not long after.

Provenance :
Private collection.

Littérature :
Hümmerich, Franz, Quellen und Untersuchungen zur Fahrt der esten Deutchen nach den portugiesischen Indien 1505/6, Abhandlungen der Königlich Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-philologische und historische Klasse, xxx 3, Munich: Königliche Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1918;
Massing, Jean-Michel, "The Triumph of Cesar by Benedetto Bordon and Jacobus Argentoratensis: Its iconography and Influence", Print Quarterly 7, 1990, p. 2-21;
Massing, Jean-Michel, "Hans Burgkmair's depiction of native Africans", Res: anthropology and aesthetics 27, 1995, p. 39-51;
Clausberg, Beate, Balthasar Sprenger und der frühneuzeitliche Reisebericht. Munich: Ludicium, 1990;
McDonald, Mark P., The Print collection of Ferdinand Columbus (1488-1539): A renaissance collector in Seville, 2 vols, London: British Museum, 2004.

Expositions :
Encompassing the Globe. Portugal in the 16th and 17th centuries, A. M. Sackler and Freer Gallery, Washington DC, June 24, 2007 – September 16, 2007;
Autour du globe. Le Portugal dans le monde aux XVIè et XVIIe siècles, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, October 26, 2007 - February 3, 2008.