Rare allegorical image celebrating the circumnavigation of the earth by Ferdinand Magellan, from De Bry's Americae pars quarta. Sive, Insignis & admiranda historia de reperta primum occidentali India à Christophoro Columbo anno M. CCCXCII ...
The image shows Magellan on board his ship, surrounded by mythological figures including Apollo with sun and lyre, Zeus on his throne of clouds, Adam and Eve, a bird carrying an elephant, a native American swallowing an arrow, and a depiction of the Tierra del Fuego. The image also includes cannon, banner with the double-headed Hapsburg eagle, anchor, broken mast, navigational instruments such as armillary sphere and dividers, sea monsters, and sea nymphs.
The large bird carrying the elephant represents the effort to discover a passage to the East Indies.
The image is based upon a 1592 engraving by Jan van der Straet, also known as Joannes [or Johannes] Stradanus, who created a series of four prints under the title Americae retectio, celebrating the discovery of the new world.
Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) was a prominent Flemish engraver and publisher best known for his engravings of the New World. Born in Liege, de Bry hailed from the portion of Flanders then controlled by Spain. The de Brys were a family of jewelers and engravers, and young Theodor was trained in those artisanal trades.
As a Lutheran, however, his life and livelihood were threatened when the Spanish Inquisition cracked down on non-Catholics. De Bry was banished and his goods seized in 1570. He fled to Strasbourg, where he studied under the Huguenot engraver Etienne Delaune. He also traveled to Antwerp, London, and Frankfurt, where he settled with his family.
In 1590, de Bry began to publish his Les Grands Voyages, which would eventually stretch to thirty volumes released by de Bry and his two sons. The volumes contained not only important engraved images of the New World, the first many had seen of the geographic novelties, but also several important maps. He also published a collection focused on India Orientalis. Les Grands Voyages was published in German, Latin, French, and English, extending de Bry’s fame and his view of the New World.