Exceptionally finely hand-colored example of one of Braun & Hogenberg's views of Rome, from an early edition of Braun & Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum.
This striking bird's-eye view of Rome shows the city as it was around 1550. Included are various surviving features of ancient Rome: the surrounding walls, the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Arch of Constantine, and the Forum Romanum. In the left corner in the foreground can be seen the Papal Palace and the Obelisk from the circus of Caligula and Nero. The view features two figures in the foreground and two extensive tables of explanations.
Braun included the following commentary about the city:
The magnificent ancient ruins of the splendid buildings give a modest indication of the splendor the city formerly possessed. The Tiber flows into this city from the north and out again towards the south. But what more should I write about so famous a city, in which the successor to St Peter the Apostle and the supreme bishop of the Catholic Church has his seat, where the bones and relics of so many apostles and martyrs are to be seen?
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.