Fine early birdseye view of the Mantua in Italy.
From Braun & Hogenberg's Civitatus Orbis Terrarum, the most important book of town plans and views published in the 16th Century.
The engraving shows a bird's-eye view of a city in the middle of a lake. In the background flat land can be seen, behind which appear the Alps. The city is linked to the mainland by bridges and dams.
Mantua was founded by the Etruscans in the 6th century BC and named after Mantus, their god of the underworld. In Roman times, the city's most famous inhabitant, Virgil, was born here, in 70 BC. After the end of the Roman era, Mantua had various rulers during the migration period.
From 1328 to 1708 the Gonzaga family ruled Mantua. Their residence was the Palazzo Ducale, which can be seen in the engraving directly to the right of the San Giorgio bridge (Pont de S. Iorgio). The Camera degli Sposi was decorated with frescos by Andrea Mantegna, one of the most important painters and engravers of the early Italian Renaissance.
Georg Braun (1541-1622) was born and died in Cologne. His primary vocation was as Catholic cleric; he spent thirty-seven years as canon and dean at the church St. Maria ad Gradus, in Cologne. Braun was the chief editor of the Civitates orbis terrarum, the greatest book of town views ever published. His job entailed hiring artists, acquiring source material for the maps and views, and writing the text. In this role, he was assisted by Abraham Ortelius. Braun lived into his 80s, and he was the only member of the original team to witness the publication of the sixth volume in 1617.
Frans Hogenberg (ca. 1540-ca. 1590) was a Flemish and German engraver and mapmaker who also painted. He was born in Mechelen, south of Antwerp, the son of wood engraver and etcher Nicolas Hogenberg. Together with his father, brother (Remigius), uncle, and cousins, Frans was one member of a prominent artistic family in the Netherlands.
During the 1550s, Frans worked in Antwerp with the famous mapmaker Abraham Ortelius. There, he engraved the maps for Ortelius’ groundbreaking first atlas, published in Antwerp in 1570, along with Johannes van Deotecum and Ambrosius and Ferdinand Arsenius. It is suspected he engraved the title page as well. Later, Ortelius supported Hogenberg with information for a different project, the Civitates orbis terrarium (edited by Georg Braun, engraved by Hogenberg, published in six volumes, Cologne, 1572-1617). Hogenberg engraved the majority of the work’s 546 prospects and views.
It is possible that Frans spent some time in England while fleeing from religious persecution, but he was living and working in Cologne by 1580. That is the city where he died around 1590. In addition to his maps, he is known for his historical allegories and portraits. His brother, Remigius, also went on to some fame as an engraver, and he died around the same time as his brother.