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Keywords:

  • collecting;
  • Gonzaga;
  • Nijs;
  • Venice;
  • Wake

The 1627–28 sale of the cream of the Gonzaga art collection belonging to the Dukes of Mantua was, arguably, the greatest art transaction of the seventeenth century. Many theories have been put forward by scholars as to the origins of the sale. However, the friendship between Daniel Nijs, the Flemish merchant in Venice who brokered the sale, and Isaac Wake, the English ambassador in Venice at the time, has largely been overlooked. This article will trace the development of their friendship from its beginnings during Wake's employment as secretary to Dudley Carleton, English ambassador in Venice between 1610 and 1615, through Wake's subsequent posting to Turin and his return to Venice as ambassador himself in 1625. Wake held Nijs in high esteem and was in a position to recommend the Fleming's services favourably to his fellow Englishmen. The Gonzaga sale needs to be understood against this background.