The trade empire created by the Dutch Republic in the 1600s was far-reaching and lucrative, and women were involved in every phase: as traders, manufacturers, consumers, and more (see Life Story of Johanna de Laet). Johannes Vermeer captures this in his painting Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. Four hundred years later, global trade is still essential to the success of many national economies, including that of the United States. Imported products are prevalent in most American homes and reflect our reliance on goods from abroad. Now, as then, many women are actively engaged in global trade.
In this activity, students will imagine they are twenty-first-century artists who are commissioned to create a portrait of wealth and trade for the United States. Students must first conduct research to determine popular items imported to the United States and where they originate. Then, using their findings, students will create an interior space similar to Vermeer’s to showcase these items and how they impact their everyday lives.