Double Agents

Cultural and Political Brokerage in Early Modern Europe


The early modern system of brokerage as a widespread practice of transmission and dissemination of political, intellectual and cultural ideas and objects has, in recent years, received some scholarly attention. Agents from different professional backgrounds – diplomats, scholars, artists, priests, booksellers and merchants – have, however, been studied mostly from a single, disciplinary perspective. The chapters making up this present volume all focus on individuals and professional groups who, in the course of their careers, became involved in multiple modes of cultural and political transfer. Together they present an international and interdisciplinary examination of early modern brokerage, a phenomenon which was permeating early modern society – and possibly even one of the fundamental organizational principles of that society.

Contributors include: Robert Hill, Thomas Kirk, Bianca Chen, Maartje van Gelder, Maurits A. Ebben, Peter Hauge, Susanna Kubersky-Piredda, Salvador Salort Pons, Martin Dönike, Badeloch Vera Noldus, and Marika Keblusek.

This publication was financed by NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) as part of the VIDI research project "Double Agents: Cultural and Political Brokerage in Early Modern Europe".
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Biographical Note

Marika Keblusek, Ph.D. (1997) in Book History, Leiden University, is Assistant Professor in Art History at Leiden University. She has published widely on book history and cultural history including Your Humble Servant. Agents in Early Modern Europe (2006).

Badeloch Vera Noldus, Ph.D. (2002) in Architectural History, Utrecht University, is heritage consultant in Copenhagen. She has published on cultural exchange and art history, including Trade in Good Taste (2004), Your Humble Servant (2006) and Pieter Isaacsz (2007).

Review Quotes

"This is a worthy contribution to a developing area of scholarship, and will appeal to historians working in a wide range of fields, from early modern diplomacy to collecting. It is a useful building block in arriving at an understanding of early modern agency. Its true value is in making available to the scholarly community these case studies, rather than providing the definitive study of early modern agency. We look forward to further efforts by the contributors to this volume and to further projects on early modern agency." – Christina M. Anderson, Hertford College, University of Oxford, in: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1 (Spring 2012), p. 226.

" Double Agents is an exciting book. It contains valuable additions to our understanding of the motivations of individual agents, of the mechanisms of brokerage, and of the cultural contexts in which it took place. Many of these essays provide stimulating analyses and syntheses of how the contemporary symbiosis between the worlds of high politics and the fine arts conditioned the ways that agents adopted strategies of networking and gift-giving to fulfil their goals, which seem primarily directed towards obtaining social mobility. Keblusek, Noldus, and their collaborators have given an important incentive to further research on what one contributor labelled as ‘the fundamental organizational principle’ (60) of early modern society." – Michael Auwers, University of Antwerp, in: European History Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 2 (2014), p. 345.

Table of contents

Introduction, Marika Keblusek

1: The embassy of art. Diplomats as cultural brokers, Marika Keblusek
2: Art and patronage. Sir Henry Wotton and the Venetian embassy 1604-1624, Robert Hill
3: Early modern contact between Holland and Hungary. Pieter Cornelisz Brederode, diplomat and scholar, Kees Teszelszky
4: Giovanni Andrea Doria. Citizen of Genoa, Prince of Melfi, agent of King Philip II of Spain, Thomas Kirk
5: Politics and letters. Gisbert Cuper as a servant of two Republics, Bianca Chen
6: The Italian jesuit Martino Martin in China and his contacts with the Amsterdam printer Joan Blaeu, Paul Begheyn SJ
7: Mercator sapiens. Merchants as cultural entrepeneurs, Marika Keblusek
8: Acquiring artistic expertise. The agent Daniel Nijs and his contacts with artists in Venice, Maartje van Gelder
9: García de Yllán. A merchant in silver, bread and bullets and a broker in art, 1591-1655, Maurits A. Ebben
10: The pretext of painting. Artists as cultural and political agents, Marika Keblusek
11: A spider in its web. Agent and artist Michel le Blon and his Northern European network, Badeloch Noldus
12: John Dowland’s employment at the royal Danish court. Musician, agent – and spy?, Peter Hauge
13: Travels of a court jester. Gonzalo de Liaño, art agent at the court of King Philipp II of Spain, Susanna Kubersky-Piredda & Salvador Salort Pons
14: ‘From Russia with love’. Agents and their victims, Martin Dönike


Index of Personal Names
Index of Places


All those interested in early modern history, the history of (informal) diplomacy, the history of cultural transfer, the history of collecting; art history of the early modern period; intellectual history.


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