The Manila Galleon Trade (1565–1815)

See works of art
  • Chocolate Jar
  • Bottle
  • Mary (from a nativity)
  • Virgin of the Immaculate Conception
  • Jar
  • Mater Dolorosa (Mourning Virgin)
  • Tureen with Cover

Works of Art (8)


The so-called Manila Galleon (“Nao de China” or “Nao de Acapulco”) brought porcelain, silk, ivory, spices, and myriad other exotic goods from China to Mexico in exchange for New World silver. (It is estimated that as much as one-third of the silver mined in New Spain and Peru went to the Far East.) On the return leg, the precious Asian wares traveled across the Pacific, via the Philippines (colonized by Spain in the late sixteenth century), to Acapulco on Mexico’s west coast. They then crossed Mexico overland for shipment to Spain. However, much of the porcelain and carved ivory remained in the Americas and, in many cases, influenced artists working there: Mexican ceramics display the impact of the Galleon trade most vividly. But Chinese silk designs may have inspired some of the patterned garments of Guatemalan sculptures, whose faces also betray the subtle influence of Asian ivory carvings.

Johanna Hecht
Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 2003



Hecht, Johanna. “The Manila Galleon Trade (1565–1815).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

Further Reading

Schurz, William Lytle. The Manila Galleon. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1939.