Fine example of a rare Italian map of Thionville, attributed to Sebastiano de Valentinis, showing the 1558 siege of the city. This richly engraved map shows French artillery and cavalry forces attacking the Spanish-held city. This map was engraved in the Lafreri School style.
The map shows the course of the Moselle River, wrapping around the city of Thionville. The city is near the present-day Luxembourg and German border and was a point of contention during the Italian War of 1551-59. This war was fought between the Habsburg Charles V and Valois Henri II, and was an attempt at a Habsburg reconquest of Italy and dominance in central European affairs. The war, in part, resulted in the division of the Habsburg empire. The war was particularly notable for the novel and extensive use of gunpowder. This can be seen on the map, with the many cannons firing on the city, and the marching riflemen.
The Siege of Thionville resulted in a French victory led by Francis, Duke de Guise. However, the town did not remain under French control for long, as a treaty signed in 1559 returned all conquered territories back to their previous owners. However, all inhabitants were forced to leave the cities before they were exchanged, thus Thionville was returned empty.
A series of depictions of Thionville appeared in Italy in the mid-16th century, stemming from a Roman-published view by Nicolas Beatrizet. The map is attributed to de Valentinis by Bifolco and Ronca.
Bifolco and Ronca list eight examples of the map, including the present in their very thorough census.
The Lafreri School is a commonly used name for a group of mapmakers, engravers, and publishers who worked in Rome and Venice from ca. 1544 to 1585. The makers, who were loosely connected via business partnerships and collaborations, created maps that were then bound into composite atlases; the maps would be chosen based on the buyer or compiler’s interests. As the maps were initially published as separate-sheets, the style and size of maps included under the umbrella of the “School” differed widely. These differences can also be seen in the surviving Lafreri atlases, which have maps bound in with varying formats including as folded maps, maps with wide, trimmed, or added margins, smaller maps, etc.
The most famous mapmakers of the School included Giacomo Gastaldi and Paolo Forlani, among others. The School’s namesake, Antonio Lafreri, was a map and printseller. His 1572 catalog of his stock, entitled Indice Delle Tavole Moderne Di Geografia Della Maggior Parte Del Mondo, has a similar title to many of the composite atlases and thus his name became associated with the entire output of the larger group.