Fine early view of the Phlegraean Fields, otherwise known as the Campi Flegrei in Italy, published by Braun & Hogenberg.
The Phlegraean Fields is a large volcanic area situated to the west of Naples, Italy. Lying mostly underwater, the area of the caldera consists of 24 craters and volcanic edifices. Hydrothermal activity can be observed at Lucrino, Agnano and the town of Pozzuoli. There are also effusive gaseous manifestations in the Solfatara crater, the mythological home of the Roman god of fire, Vulcan.
The view depicts the region of the Neapolitan Coastine where deadly sulphurous vapors rise from the ground. The allegorical figures with a donkey's head and a Medusa's head who are striking an anvil with smiths' hammers, and the cartouche texts framed by horseshoes, are clear references to the forge of the god Vulcan. In the middle we see the artist (Georg Hoefnagel) and the scholar (Abraham Ortelius) discussing in detail what they see (C: "The water here is always black, muddy and so hot that if an egg is put in it, it will come out cooked; the water bubbles like the sea and often surges up to a height of 24 handbreadths"). The Greeks founded their oldest colony on the Italian mainland close to the Phlegraean Fields and since antiquity travelers have been fascinated by these volcanic hills with their hot springs and craters, so vividly portrayed by Georg Hoefnagel. (Taschen)
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.