Damião de goís

The poet and the polymath: two 16th-century Portuguese travellers

In 1866, Dante Gabriel Rossetti visited a London print shop to buy a large canvas of a Renaissance street. He recognised that the bustling scene – black-robed clerics, bargaining merchants, black porters and children teasing a monkey, played out on a wide boulevard in front of a colonnaded row of slightly rickety houses – was Iberian, but could be no more precise. Only in 2009 did scholars identify the street as Lisbon’s Rua Nova dos Mercadores, painted in the late 16th century, and lost like so much of the city in the great earthquake of 1755. One of the many virtues of Edward Wilson-Lee’s fascinating, elegantly written book is to