With The Medici Coat of Arms
Finely colored example of this scarce map of the "Florentine Dominion," published by JB Vrients in the posthumous editions of Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum from 1603 to 1612. This fine work offers a captivating window into the geographical and political landscape of the Florentine Dominion during a transformative period in its history.
The very heart of the map is Florence, an iconic symbol of the Renaissance, art, and culture. Surrounded by the territories of Liguria, the Apennine Mountains, the States of Bologna, Luca, Siena, the state of the Church and Umbria, this map exudes a sense of grandeur, intricately detailing the significant landmarks and topographies of the region. The inclusion of the Medici Coat of arms at the top emphasizes the Medici family's dominating influence over Florence and its territories during this period.
The presence of the sailing ships, especially along the Mediterranean coastline, reflects Florence's economic ambitions. Though Florence itself is not a coastal city, its access to the port in Livorno underlines its maritime pursuits and endeavors to be a dominant player in global trade. These ships symbolize Florence's economic prowess, a nod to the burgeoning trade routes and maritime networks that connected Europe to other parts of the world.
The origins of the map trace back to Stefano Buonsignori's map from 1584, engraved by Domenico Vito. This connection, along with the communications between Marcarius and Ortelius, lends an insight into the intricate networks of knowledge transfer, cartography, and scholarly exchange that marked the Renaissance era.
To understand the context of this map, a brief delve into the history of the Florentine Dominion during the second half of the 16th and the first quarter of the 17th century is crucial.
The Medici family, who were originally bankers, rose to prominence in Florence in the 15th century. By the second half of the 16th century, the Medici had solidified their control over Florence, transforming it from a republic into a hereditary dukedom. Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574) played a pivotal role in this transformation. Under his reign, the Florentine state expanded its territories, acquiring regions like Siena in 1557.
The late 16th century witnessed the reign of Francesco I and Ferdinando I. Both these rulers continued the policies of Cosimo, consolidating Medici power, fostering the arts, and reinforcing Florence as a major economic power. This era saw Florence emerge as a nexus of culture, with the patronage of artists, architects, and scholars. The Medici's deep ties to the Papacy further enhanced their influence across the Italian peninsula.
As the 17th century began, Florence, under the Medici rule, experienced both peaks and troughs. While the city remained a hub for art and culture, challenges in the form of economic downturns, plagues, and political intrigue began to emerge. The early 17th century, in particular, witnessed a decline in the Medici's political power, though their patronage of the arts continued.
In essence, the "Florentini Dominii" map is more than just a geographical representation; it's a symbol of the Florentine Dominion's cultural, economic, and political aspirations at a crucial juncture in its history. Through this map, one can trace the ebbs and flows of a region that, despite challenges, stood as a beacon of humanism, trade, and innovation.
Abraham Ortelius is perhaps the best known and most frequently collected of all sixteenth-century mapmakers. Ortelius started his career as a map colorist. In 1547 he entered the Antwerp guild of St Luke as afsetter van Karten. His early career was as a business man, and most of his journeys before 1560, were for commercial purposes. In 1560, while traveling with Gerard Mercator to Trier, Lorraine, and Poitiers, he seems to have been attracted, largely by Mercator’s influence, towards a career as a scientific geographer. From that point forward, he devoted himself to the compilation of his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World), which would become the first modern atlas.
In 1564 he completed his “mappemonde", an eight-sheet map of the world. The only extant copy of this great map is in the library of the University of Basel. Ortelius also published a map of Egypt in 1565, a plan of Brittenburg Castle on the coast of the Netherlands, and a map of Asia, prior to 1570.
On May 20, 1570, Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum first appeared in an edition of 70 maps. By the time of his death in 1598, a total of 25 editions were published including editions in Latin, Italian, German, French, and Dutch. Later editions would also be issued in Spanish and English by Ortelius’ successors, Vrients and Plantin, the former adding a number of maps to the atlas, the final edition of which was issued in 1612. Most of the maps in Ortelius' Theatrum were drawn from the works of a number of other mapmakers from around the world; a list of 87 authors is given by Ortelius himself
In 1573, Ortelius published seventeen supplementary maps under the title of Additamentum Theatri Orbis Terrarum. In 1575 he was appointed geographer to the king of Spain, Philip II, on the recommendation of Arias Montanus, who vouched for his orthodoxy (his family, as early as 1535, had fallen under suspicion of Protestantism). In 1578 he laid the basis of a critical treatment of ancient geography with his Synonymia geographica (issued by the Plantin press at Antwerp and republished as Thesaurus geographicus in 1596). In 1584 he issued his Nomenclator Ptolemaicus, a Parergon (a series of maps illustrating ancient history, sacred and secular). Late in life, he also aided Welser in his edition of the Peutinger Table (1598).