On the 400th anniversary of the death of Matteo
Ricci, S.J., a pioneer and renowned scholar of Asian culture, the University of
San Francisco opens two exhibits of art, iconography, and rare books that shed
light on California’s role as a center for trade and cultural exchange extending
to the Philippines, Mexico, and the tribes of North America dating back to the
The Thacher Gallery, in the Gleeson Library/Geschke Center,
hosts “Galleons & Globalization: California Mission Arts and the Pacific Rim” Aug. 20 to Dec. 19.
The exhibition of more than 150 textiles, sculptures, and
paintings is shown in concert with early imprints from Japan, China, the
Philippines, Mexico, and Peru in the library’s Donohue Rare Book Room. The
Ricci Institute at the USF Center for the Pacific Rim is sponsoring an
associated scholarly conference, “Legacies of the Book: Early Missionary Printing in Asia and the Americas,” Sept. 24-26.
“With this exhibit, I want to give
our students a perspective on the world that shows how we’re all interconnect,”
said Tom Lucas, S.J., USF university professor of art + architecture and the exhibit’s
curator. “Then as now, the whole world ended up in California.”
From a Philippine made ivory
crucifix owned by Mariano Vallejo – a Spanish-born subject turned California
military commander, politician, and rancher – to a woven Native American basket
that repeats and reinterprets the Spanish Coat of Arms, the influence of the
Spanish empire’s Pacific trade from Acapulco to Manila to California and south
along the coast is evident.
“Seen together these objects – obscure treasures collected
from sunken ships and prized selections from international museums,
California’s missions, and private collections – lead to surprising
cross-cultural discoveries,” Fr Lucas said.
Spain traded silver from the
Americas for spices, porcelain, and bees’ wax for candles from Asia and
established outposts and missions in California to “civilize” native cultures
and act as a buffer against a growing Russian presence expanding from Siberia
and Alaska, Fr. Lucas said.
Spanish sailors ended up in California as a
result of the prevailing currents and winds that turned a two-month sail from
Mexico to the Philippines into an eight-month return sail and forced ships to
navigate north to what was then Alta California before turning south toward