One of Matthaus Seutter's magnificent allegorical figures of the 'colossal kings' from his Atlas Novus.
This fascianting print elequently captures the ethic of the absolute monarchy that prevailed accross Europe well into the 18th-century. The scene is dominated by the strong figure of a king, adorned with his crown and sceptre. Written throughout the king's person are the names of the various kingdoms of Europe, which correspond to the coasts of arms that adorn the surroundings.
Allegorically, the scene is meant to show that all of the power, and indeed the political identity, of almost all Europan states was vested in one man - the Absolute Monarch. While Seuttter's depiction is original in style, it follows a long line of anthropomorphic portrayals of power as invested in the body of the king. Perhaps the earliest such representation is Sebastain Munster's 'Lary Europa' (1540) (or Europe embodied by a Queen, representing the Spanish Empire). Another evocative image can be found on the frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (1651), which figuratively shows the powers of all a kingsdom's subjects being subsumed to form the the body of a great kingly power.
Seutter published this work as one of four prints of 'colossal kings', which first appeared in his Atlas Novus (1728), with subsequent editions issued up to 1761.
Matthäus Seutter (1678-1757) was a prominent German mapmaker in the mid-eighteenth century. Initially apprenticed to a brewer, he trained as an engraver under Johann Baptist Homann in Nuremburg before setting up shop in his native Augsburg. In 1727 he was granted the title Imperial Geographer. His most famous work is Atlas Novus Sive Tabulae Geographicae, published in two volumes ca. 1730, although the majority of his maps are based on earlier work by other cartographers like the Homanns, Delisles, and de Fer.
Alternative spellings: Matthias Seutter, Mathaus Seutter, Matthaeus Seutter, Mattheus Seutter