|Officer and Laughing Girl by Johannes Vermeer|
The images by this Dutch Baroque painter speak of domestic interior scenes of middle class life. But his pictures, which seem so intimate, actually open doors onto a rapidly expanding world. The officer's dashing hat is made of beaver fur, which European explorers got from Native Americans in exchange for weapons. Beaver pelts, in turn, financed the voyages of Dutch sailors seeking new routes to China. There - with silver mined in Peru - Europeans would purchase, by the thousands, the porcelains so often shown in Dutch paintings of this time.
Source: Brook, T. 2008. Vermeer's Hat. London, UK: Profile Books Ltd.