Cups and Saucer from the Griffin Shipwreck, 1700s. Qing dynasty (1644–1911), China. Porcelain with underglaze blue; cup:1 1/2 x dia: 2 7/8 in.; saucer: 1 x dia: 4 5/8 in. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Jan and Frederick R. Mayer, 2003.34.1, 2003.35.1.

From Art to Money and Everything in Between

What does trade have to do with art? How does local and global trade influence the lives of people? What did trade look like in different places and time periods?

Cups and Saucer from the Griffin Shipwreck, 1700s. Qing dynasty (1644–1911), China. Porcelain with underglaze blue; cup:1 1/2 x dia: 2 7/8 in.; saucer: 1 x dia: 4 5/8 in. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Jan and Frederick R. Mayer, 2003.34.1, 2003.35.1.


Trade (the exchange of goods and services) has a rich history, and its evolution has shaped cultures, countries, and shopping experiences. Historically and today, trade plays a crucial role in the global economy. In an increasingly global world, trade can be the thread that binds us all together. Use these artwork-inspired activities and resources to introduce a few complexities of trade and economic power with kids of all ages.

Thinking Together: The Cost of a Teacup

Let’s look closer at artworks from the museum’s collection found in the Griffin Shipwreck!

This cup and saucer are from the Griffin shipwreck, a ship owned and operated by the British East India Company that sunk off the coast of the Philippines in 1761. The British East India was an extremely powerful, joint-stock company and had a firm grip on trade between England and China.

Hiding inside these teacups lays a vast history of international trade and exploitation. Explore how The British East India Company redistributed wealth across Britain, China, and India during the height of colonialization. 

Students will think about livable wages and apply this understanding to modern companies and realities. 

The History of Tea Continues

Feel inspired by the Cup and Saucer story? Want to learn more about the history of tea? Take a tour around Denver to connect these artworks to today's tea culture.

Discussion Questions:

  • What makes tea important to our community?
  • What cultures contribute to Colorado’s tea industry?
  • What other tea businesses are important to you?
  • Are there other goods or services that define your community?

Looking Together: Trade Practices

Look at the Ribbon Appliqué Wearing Blanket crafted by an Osage artist.

This activity relates children’s experiences to the concept of trade practices in history by sharing this artwork’s specific story.

In the early 1600s and the Osage began trading with the French for things like wool cloth and silk ribbon—materials that were used in the making of this blanket. A woman from the Osage tribe sewed this blanket in the early 1900s for a special dance called the I-loⁿ-shka [ee-LONSH-kah].

Detail from painting called Bouquet of Flowers in A Vase by Maria van Oosterwyck

Maria van Oosterwyck, Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase, about 1670s. Oil paint on canvas; 29 x 22 in. Funds by exchange from T. Edward and Tullah Hanley in honor of longtime director, Otto Bach and his wife Cile Bach, 1997.219

Creating Together: Rise and Fall

This activity examines the artistic characteristics of Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase to learn about the historic and economic phenomenon known as Tulipomania. Flowers like those in the bouquet were rare and very expensive in Holland.

Flower bulbs and seeds had to be imported from the East, and only the wealthy could afford flower gardens. As a result, flowers, especially tulips, became symbols of status. Kids can conduct research and write a brief collective newspaper article about another financial bubble in history.

Take this activity one step future and create your own flower display to tell another story about trade.

Related Creativity Resources

Four kids posing in makeshift Samurai suit and armor
Thematic Collection

The Art of the Samurai

Suit of Armor and Helmet is a unique object in our collection that looks functional but was actually made in admiration of Samurai’s of the past. Take a closer look at how this suit of armor balances delicate details and symbols of fierceness and consider what faithfulness, loyalty, and dedication might have meant in 18th century Japan.

Young boy pointing at a painting
Thematic Collection

Stepping Back in Time

Activities inspired by The 19th Century in European and American Art

Explore artworks from the museum’s collection by Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Paul Cézanne, Édouard Manet, Willard Leroy Metcalf, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Childe Hassam, and others that tell a story about a complex time in Europe and America.

Brightly colored corpse flowers with pink stems and roots
Thematic Collection

Adventure through the Pink Universe

Activities inspired by Simphiwe Ndzube: Oracles of the Pink Universe

Guide your students and/or children through the Pink Universe with fun activities inspired by Simphiwe Ndzube: Oracles of the Pink Universe. Activities include an artmaking project and a book recommendation.

close up image of tags on blankets
Thematic Collection

Putting It Together

Collaborative artmaking has the power to bond people, cultures, and community. With the opening of the Each/Other exhibition, take a closer look at two of Marie Watts' artworks and discover how they are a gateway to collaboration, sharing, and creativity.

Image of two mannequins dressed in vintage short dresses
Thematic Collection

Playing with Pattern

Visual patterns appear in every aspect of our lives—from the architecture around us to the natural world. Sometimes artists and designers are inspired by existing patterns or create their own to add visual interest to their work. We encourage you to keep an eye out for patterns around you and explore creating your own unique patterns through these activities.