Barbary/Ottoman Piracy in the 16th Century -- Battle View of Pignon Velez de Gomera, Based upon a Painting By Antoon van den Wijngaerde
Rare Lafreri school view of the battle of Pignon de Velez de Gomera, showing a siege by the Spanish, Italian, and German troops, with Spanish, Portuguese, and Maltese ships and galleys. This map was published in Venice in 1567 and is attributed to Paolo Forlani.
The view depicts a siege led by the Spanish to retake the Pignon de Velez between August 1564 and September 6, 1564. The map is based on an earlier, circa 1565 map by Zenoi and Comocio, also published in Venice and representing the first Italian-published map of the battle. This map is found in three of the five known examples of the Forlani and Zenoi Il primo libro della citta et fortezza del mondo, suggesting that it was meant to accompany this book showing the fortresses of the known world.
The map is filled with extensive detail, showing the progress of the siege. Canons fire around the map, Spanish troops march across tidal flats, and castles brim with soldiers. The engraving style is delicate and exciting, and a prime example of Lafreri School representations of battles.
The title of the map translates as:
The true & natural site of the villa of Velez de Gomera, & the impregnable fort and castle called the Pignon, located in Babaria Africa, across from Spain, in which place they used to have Moors and Corsairs of the sea, for spying, piracy and naval trading. Now it has been taken for the Catholic King Philip of Spain etc: His Majesty assigned his naval army in Malaga, to D. Gartia de Toledo, in which we find 2. Galleys of Malta, 10. of Sicily, 11. of Naples , 8. of Florence, 6. of S.or Marc Ant o Colonna, 12 of S.or Gio. Andrea, 4 of S.or Marco Centurione, 3. of Savoia, 22. of Spain, 8. of Portugal. A large force of three thousand men, with Captains and Gentlemen in service, no names have been assigned to them; & being the garrison garnered of good provisions sailed to Barbaria, with 120 velle, and passed to Alcala, which is 3 leagues far from the Pignon: a part of the force was disembarked, and the other sailed towards the Pignon, and surrounded it on all sides, and using the force of artillery, took the place, and put it under the control of a guard of Spanish soldiers. The victory was of great importance for the navigation of Italy and Spain.
The Siege of Pignon de Velez
Pignon de Velez was a fortified island on the Moroccan coast, and a very strong position, situated opposite the mouths of the Gomera River. The name Gomera, according to J.A. Conde, was derived from the celebrated Arab tribe of the Gomeres, who flourished in Africa and Spain until the last Moorish kings of Granada. The fortification was conquered by Spain in 1508, by the condottiero Pedro Navarro, but by 1554 it had fallen into the hands of Muslim pirates, who conducted raids and trading for the next 10 years. In 1564, King Philip II organized a large fleet of 93 galleys and 60 other boats, captained by Garcia de Toledo who succeeded in reconquering the Pignon de Velez. The battle greatly benefited the security of navigation in the western Mediterranean, thus making the navigation of the Spanish merchant fleets more secure.
Immediately after the victory, the King commissioned two exceptional drawings of the event to the famous painter Antoon van den Wijngaerde, which became the primary models of reference for numerous engravings and drawings: the first shows a perspective view from one of the hills surrounding El Pignon; the promontory appears at the center of the image, while in the background the Spanish fleet is visible. The second drawing shows in the foreground the galleys and slings used for the operation, with the promontory in the background. Zenoi & Camocio's engraving is one of the earliest images to follow the first of Wijngaerde's illustrations.
The map is very rare on the market. We find no examples of it having traded in Rare Book Hub.
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.
Paolo Forlani (fl. ca. 1560-1571) was a prolific map engraver based in Venice. All that is known of his life are his surviving maps and prints, of which there are almost 100 (185 with later states included in the total). He also produced a globe and two town books. It is likely he came from Verona and that he died in Venice in the mid-1570s, possibly of the plague.