For different communities, at different times and for different reasons, Rome has always formed an important locus; this discussion will focus on one particular such early modern group. As the sixteenth-century progressed into the seventeenth, many individual Spanish and Portuguese had made their way to Rome, not only because of its geo-political significance, but also because for a large minority of them it offered them a freedom of action that was unobtainable in their own countries. These were the Conversos, Iberians of Jewish descent, who were being gradually and effectively excluded from playing a role in church and state in Spain and Portugal, two countries that were briefly united from 1580. Drawing on our research in Rome, undertaken as historian and art historian respectively, we shall discuss the kind of lives these men (and occasionally women) were able to make for themselves in Rome, what roles they played there, and their importance, out of scale to their number, as patrons of the visual arts both at home and abroad, ranging from El Greco to Velazquez.
Piers Baker-Bates is currently a Visiting Research Associate at The Open University, United Kingdom, having previously been a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the same Institution. He is also chair of ARTES, the Iberian & Latin American Visual Culture Group.
James W. Nelson Novoa is Associate Professor in the department of Modern Languages and Literatures and Medieval and Renaissance studies at the University of Ottawa (Canada).