The Collections

Spices: trading for spices in Asia

Created: 05.09.11

The Portuguese and Dutch were the first Europeans to trade with the East Indies by sea in the 1500s. They sailed to Indonesia and to southern India in search of pepper and other spices. These luxuries were in huge demand in Europe. The Dutch became the most successful European spice traders. The English East India Company was set up to challenge their dominance.

Find out more about the Traders gallery


  • Name
  • Artist / Maker
  • Date made
  • ID
  • Eertvelt, Andries van
    1610-1620
    bhc0748
    The Return to Amsterdam of the Second Expedition to the East Indies on 19 July 1599

    This early work by Andries van Eertvelt was based on the more famous painting by Eertvelt's master, Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom (1566-1640) which is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. The painting shows the return to Amsterdam of the ships ‘Overijssel’, ‘Vriesland’, ‘Mauritius’…

  • Backhuysen, Ludolf
    1670s
    bhc1934
    A Dutch settlement in India viewed from the land

    This painting, which is one of a pair, shows a busy Dutch East Indies factory port at the height of its success in the mid-seventeenth century. We, the viewers, look along the shoreline to the town beyond. The terrain represented…

  • Trampon, P.
    1711
    bhc2825
    Captain Robert Knox of the East India Company, 1641-1720

    A three-quarter-length portrait seated and facing forward to meet the gaze of the viewer. He wears a brown silk gown, a red flower-embroidered waistcoat and a fair, full-bottomed wig. His left hand rests on a paper on which is written,…

  • English School, 16th century
    1596
    bhc2828
    Sir James Lancaster, 1554/5-1618

    Lancaster was brought up in Portugal as a merchant and soldier, but returned to England in 1587. He thereafter became a trusted employee of the London merchant Thomas Cordell, commanding his merchant ship ‘Edward Bonaventure’ in the fleet against the…

  • Unknown
    circa 1657
    h5621-2
    Cargo vessel; East Indiaman; Dutch East Indiaman

    Scale: 1:33. A contemporary full hull votive model of an armed Dutch East Indiaman (circa 1657). The model is decked, equipped and rigged, with ‘Anno 1657’ carved into the stern decoration. At this scale, the model represents a 28-32-gun ship…

  • English School, 17th century
    circa 1683
    bhc1873
    East India Company ships at Deptford

    (Updated, February 2015) The ships used by the East Company were initially purchased privately as required. Losses from wear, tear and wreck took their toll and large ships suitable for the Eastern trade were soon at a premium, some costing…

  • Unknown
    circa 1785
    d3894_1
    Punch bowl

    This Chinese export punch-bowl shows half-built ships set in an imaginary Chinese landscape. It is inscribed: 'Success to Mr Barnard's Yard', within an Adamesque oval panel surmounted by medallions and ribbons. The outside is painted in grisaille with line drawings…

  • Unknown
    1808
    e4949-1
    Ten cash piece

    Ten cash piece. Obverse: Arms of the East India Company. Legend: 'EAST INDIA COMPANY'. Exergue: '1808'. Reverse: Inscription in Persian script. Exergue: 'X Cash'.

  • Unknown
    1808
    e4950-1
    Ten cash piece

    Ten cash piece. Obverse: Arms of the East India Company. Legend: 'EAST INDIA COMPANY'. Exergue: '1808'. Reverse: Inscription in Persian script. Exergue: 'X CASH'.

  • Unknown
    1803
    e9607-2
    Ten cash piece

    East India Company, ten cash piece. Obverse: Arms of the East India Co. Legend.'EAST INDIA COMPANY'. Exergue: '1803'. Reverse: Inscription in Persian script. Exergue: 'X.CASH'.

  • Unknown
    circa 1780-1800
    d9428
    Bag seal for cloth

    Lead cloth or 'bag seal' (from its shape) with merchant's mark of the East India Company. The design on the reverse shows a St George cross with the English shield of arms (the three lions of England diagonally impaled with…