Maps in the Renaissance Period

Published: 2021-07-26 10:05:06
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Category: Art

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When one takes 3d objects and transforms them to 2d representation, choices always have to be made. Information is transformed, distorted, or left out. These choices tell a story about what is important to the curator of this information. In maps, this inherent bias is sometimes subconscious, and other times is used and abused to sell certain ideals to viewers. Michael Wintle says in his article Renaissance Maps and the Construction of the Idea of Europe that It is no longer controversial to maintain that maps are a form of discourse, that they represent viewpoints, opinions, aspirations and statements to their readers, who in turn interpret the data which maps present. Maps are interpretations of ?facts, and often contain ideological and rhetorical devices. In this sense, they can document a social history of power, especially power over space. This dynamic emerged as maps developed in and through the Renaissance and beyond.
In the 1320s, Fra Paolino Veneto created one of the first maps of Rome. He shows the city with a number of faintly recognizable and often labeled monuments (like the colosseum, towers, aqueducts, and St. Peterr’s Basilica) as well as geographical features (Romer’s famed hills, the Tiber River), all contained within a regularized oblong circuit of crenellated walls. It was not scaled and had no references to measured data, and the monuments and roads only had a slight resemblance to the actual layout and architecture of the city. It was portrayed in an ideogrammatic view, which presented the town as a collection of isolated monuments within a schematic rendering of the walls. Through this vague representation, these maps could become up to varying interpretations.
Around 1485, Rosselli created a large pictorial view of Rome that became the foremost map of Rome for almost century. The original is only known through copies, but some aspects can be gathered. It portrayed Rome in a dense cityscape, giving a sense of life, as contrary to the ideogrammatic view that Veneto had created. The view is from the Northwest and features many prominent landmarks, quite a few of which are emphasized by being much larger than actual size. This created a bias towards these landmarks in a bid to bring in more visitors to the capitol through showing off the culture and grand history of the city.
One of the successors of Rossellir’s engraving was the Mantua Canvas. The painting favored ancient monuments by highlighting them in white and making them larger than more recent Renaissance construction, with much more detail. While this emphasis in Rossellir’s engraving was for the purposes of promoting Rome as a grand cultured city, the emphasis of old monuments in the Mantua Canvas was twisted for a political message. An inscription on the map reads How great Rome once was, now only the ruins show. This portrait of the city was created to hang in the Mantuan Palace. Maier states In the context of a hall of state like the Ducal Palace in Mantua, this city portrait was carefully tailored to make a political statement. Although the Gonzaga court had no claims to Rome, the view shows their emblem, the eagle, emblazoned … next to the flag of Rome… In this way, the rulers of Mantua took symbolic possession of the Eternal City.
A few years later, Bufalini created a plan that was the most accurate since ancient times. The map was a unique combination and synthesis of the physical fabric of modern Rome and a glorious specter of ancient ?caput mundi. Caput mundi meant Rome as capital of the world. This sentiment was often echoed in art of the Renaissance as it heavily romanticised Rome. Bufalini was following numerous architects and artists who were, according to Claudio Tolomei, trying to draw from the grave the Rome that is already dead, and give her new life.
Through his portrayal, Bufalini looked to unite the past and the present, and his map took pictoralism from his portrayal. In inscriptions on his map, he said his image offered viewers the true essence of Rome. He wrote in the lower left margin that The city which today is inhabited, he [Bufalini] has placed before your eyes, except that he has also added the old, once mistress of the whole world, brought back as if from the grave. The map not only included the present and past buildings, but also others that hadnt been built, therefore collapsing past, present, and future cityscapes. The map was more accurate in the abiato, or urban center, and it looks like Bufalini had measured major streets before sketching in the positions of smaller roads. In the farther out parts of Rome, the disabiato, it was less accurate.
The buildings of Bufalinir’s time, in the process of renewal, were hidden and instead exaggerated and restored ruins were rebuilt in a bid for nostalgia, much like other maps. Though the disabiator’s rhetoric was more clear, there was also a message in the abiato. The center of the map held a largely exaggerated statue of Emperor Constantine, a symbol of Romer’s victory and Christian identity. Maier describes this as a visual summation of Renaissance Romer’s self-definition as the Christian revival and culmination of antiquity. This is reinforced by the way that St. Peterr’s Basilica was depicted on the map.

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