Masters of Mobility


3.4 ‘Embedded’ Mobility : at Home Here and There

Despite the long-term mobility of the Sandrart and Le Blon families, their diaspora networks that connected them to places abroad did not exclude their members from local communities. In contrast, the success of these circles often relied on their good contacts to their host societies, and their good understanding of local circumstances was of crucial importance. As cultural entrepreneurs, Jennis, the Le Blons and Sandrart depended on both their local and their transnational connections and it was the combination of these two factors that helped them succeed. As travelers between two cultural regions, they were ‘multiple rooted’ and perfectly fit the definition of ‘transmigrants’, as described in contemporary mobility and migration studies. In the various stations of their careers, they could rely on both their local and their distant contacts. Joachim Sandrart, arguably the most mobile person among the aforementioned examples, easily integrated into the cultural life of each new town in which he settled down. In Amsterdam he established contacts with Joost van den Vondel, Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, Samuel Coster, Gerard Vossius, Caspar Barlaeus and other respected Dutch writers. In Nuremberg, where he stayed for the last decades of his life, he had close connections to members of the Pegnesische Blumenorden, the town’s literary society, especially to Sigmund von Birken, a son of Lutheran exiles from Bohemia, with whom he collaborated in the publication of the Teutsche Academie. He was also admitted to the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft, the most prestigious literary society within the Holy Roman Empire.

The interconnection between Nuremberg’s local life and the knowledge of cultural traditions from the Low Countries is reflected in the publication of the Teutsche Academie. The contacts with members of the Blumenorden were as essential as the familiarity with artistic traditions from abroad. In Nuremberg, Sandrart could rely on the literary skills of Sigmund von Birken and his Netherlandish network, which gave him access to the knowledge and information that was necessary to succeed in this project.1 In a similar way, the Le Blon brothers used their local knowledge of Frankfurt and Amsterdam to their advantages and benefitted from their bi-cultural outlook.

Economic historians have sometimes described early modern merchants and cultural entrepreneurs as ‘footloose’ and without steady ties to one place.2 However, in professions, in which displacement could be a career opportunity, it was also necessary to build strong ties to the various places that were of economic importance. Sandrart was, thus, not ‘footloose’ or ‘rootless’ but rather rooted in several places and traditions. Despite his frequent relocations, we should not think of him as an uprooted cosmopolitan. In each place where he lived he built contacts to locals and during his years in the Palatinate, he even engaged in cattle farming and beer brewing – activities that inherently required a certain degree of sedentariness. Apparently, mobile lifestyles did not exclude individuals from commitments to local life: not only Sandrart but also several members of the aforementioned silversmith and painter families in the Palatinate engaged in agricultural activities and especially in smaller places like Frankenthal, crop and cattle farming were a part of a migrant communities’ daily life.3

To describe the entanglement of local life and transnational networks abroad, theorists of contemporary mobility and migration have introduced the concept as ‘translocality’, which Michael Peter Smith defines ‘as a mode of multiple emplacement or a situatedness both here and there’.4 This characterization fits the realities of early modern cultural agents between the Netherlands, Frankfurt and other German towns surprisingly well. Merchant, artist and publisher families were spread between all these places and used their knowledge of the different cultural and economic climates to their advantage. As their cases suggest, early modern mobility was, typically, embedded in local contexts. A trans-generational perspective on the multiple connections of these cultural entrepreneurs allows us to overcome simplistic dichotomies between local and communal lifestyles on the one hand and a mobile, cosmopolitan sphere on the other. The socio-geographical outlook of the migrant networks between Germany and the Netherlands were rather characterized by an ‘embedded mobility’ that connected individuals to several places and regions. The role of the second- and third generations was significant as they benefitted from two decisive factors: While the old connections to the networks of their parents and grand-parents were still available, and often renewed, later generation migrants were better informed about the local situation in the new societies in which they had grown up. In the Le Blon and Sandrart networks, the second generations were better prepared to act as agents of cultural exchange and transfer. When it comes to the publishing business and their roles in the familiarization of the German market with texts and literature from abroad, these families were no exception: the Fievet, Hulsius or De Zetter families in Frankfurt, the De Villiers family in Bremen; the publishing houses Wyngaerden in Heidelberg or Von Wiering in Hamburg show clear parallels, and a look into the Frankfurt book fair catalogues suggest that publishers with a migrant background were among the most productive entrepreneurs in this business.5

The role of such later generation migrants in processes of cultural transfer can also stimulate us to rethink the nature of early modern diasporas. Rather than belonging to a clearly defined diaspora that defined itself in clear contrast to the host society of its members, the Sandrarts and Le Blons participated in local and in transnational networks, without being totally absorbed by one or the other. Being rooted both here and there, their bi-cultural upbringing and their socio-geographic outlook perfectly prepared them for a mobile lifestyle that offered them valuable career opportunities.


1 Klemm 1995.

2 Gelderblom 2013, p. 201.

3 Zehl 1995, p. 146-147.

4 Smith 2011, p.181.

5 E.g. Reske 2007, p. 125, 262, 362–364; Schwetschke 1877, p. 65; 67; 71-78; 80-86; 95–99; 103; 106; 110; 127; 132.

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