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A finely engraved composition, celebrating Coronelli's construction of the 'Marly Globes' for Louis XIV.

In 1681, the Venetian cartographer and globemaker, Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, was invited to reside at the court of the Sun King. There, under the patronage of Cardinal César d'Estrées, Coronelli led a team of scientists and artists with the mandate of crafting the largest and most sumptuously decorated globes ever created.

After two years of exacting work, the globes were completed. They were an astounding spectacle, each being over 17 feet in diameter and 4,000 pounds in weight. The terrestrial globe featured the most advanced cartographic knowledge, much of it gleaned from the Jesuits, and elaborate baroque pictorial vignettes. The celestial globe featured all of the constellations in their allegorical splendor, with all of the stars heightened in gold.

The globes were housed in specially-constructed pavilions at the palace of Marly-le-Roi, thus granting the globes their name.

Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650-1715) was born in Venice and apprenticed as a xylographer, before joining the Franciscan Order in 1665. In 1678, after studying astronomy and geography, Coronelli began working as a geographer and was commissioned to make a set of terrestrial and celestial globes for Ranuccio II Farnese, the Duke of Parma that were 5 feet in diameter. He moved to Rome, where he constructed globes for major ecclesiastical patorns.

So impressive was Coronelli's work that he was invited to Paris to construct globes for Louis XIV, with the Marly Globes being by far his greatest accomplishment.

Coronelli subsequently returned to Venice where he published a grand atlas, the Atlante Veneto (1690) and founded the Accademia Cosmografica degli Argonauti, the world's first geographical society.

Vincenzo Maria Coronelli Biography

Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650-1718) is one of the most influential Italian mapmakers and is known especially for his globes and atlases. The son of a tailor, Vincenzo was apprenticed to a xylographer (a wood block engraver) at a young age. At fifteen he became a novice in a Franciscan monastery. At sixteen he published his first book, the first of 140 publications he would write in his lifetime. The order recognized his intellectual ability and saw him educated in Venice and Rome. He earned a doctorate in theology, but also studied astronomy. By the late 1670s, he was working on geography and was commissioned to create a set of globes for the Duke of Parma. These globes were five feet in diameter. The Parma globes led to Coronelli being named theologian to the Duke and receiving a bigger commission, this one from Louis XIV of France. Coronelli moved to Paris for two years to construct the King’s huge globes, which are 12.5 feet in diameter and weigh 2 tons.

The globes for the French King led to a craze for Coronelli’s work and he traveled Europe making globes for the ultra-elite. By 1705, he had returned to Venice. There, he founded the first geographical society, the Accademia Cosmografica degli Argonauti and was named Cosmographer of the Republic of Venice. He died in 1718.