In his late forties, Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua (1562–1612) decided he needed a new biostimulator to cure his legendary restlessness, for he was experiencing senior amatory difficulties. Thus he sent a young apothecary on a journey from Mantua to Spain, and then to Panama and Peru, to find an animal Viagra-equivalent in that expanse of lands where marvels were contained. The duke's discreet fantasy of resurrecting the flesh, anchored in male anxiety, narcissistic excess, and a peculiar dream of domination, occupies hardly a footnote in the multinational project of mercantile imperialism that marked the discovery of the natural beauties of the New World. Yet, within the historical moment in which it played, the halcyon cure that this aging conquistador desired serves as a miniature parable that can reconfigure what is by all means a trivial colonialist narrative into an erotics of knowledge.

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