Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673 Insula Gaditana, vulgo Isla de Cadiz
Blaeu, Joan, 1596-1673
Insula Gaditana, vulgo Isla de Cadiz
From: Atlas Maior
Copperplate engraving with original hand coloring
Map of the Cadiz region in southern Spain. Relief shown pictorially.
The Atlas Maior is the final version of Joan Blaue's atlas published in Amsterdam between 1662 and 1672
Published in the 9th volume of Blaeu’s Atlas Maior, the present plate is the 12th in a series of 21 maps of Spain and Portugal, supplemented with 7 prints of the Escorial. According to Peter van Krogt the latter are based on original drawings by Juan de Herrera whereas the maps are either copied from Juan Bautista Labaña or reprinted from older plates dating around 1635. Only the maps of Cadiz and the Azores are new additions to the famous Atlas Maior.
The present map is more than a cartographical account of the Bay of Cadiz; its color scheme suggests topographical detail that introduces a painterly quality to the intricately carved plate. Including ships and salt fields, it also references the naval and economic profile of Cadiz which Blaeu describes thus: “The main wealth of the islanders consists of salt, which they harvest, and
the tuna fisheries.”
Most remarkable is the cartouche with its group of mythological figures reminiscent of Raphael’s Galatea fresco at the Villa Farnesina in Rome. The overlapping bodies, hybrid creatures, and their attributes are both an iconographical quote and a token to the publisher’s erudition. The colors are vividly preserved and the almost iridescent quality of the green and reddish hues may hint at the addition of minerals such as silicates. Moreover, the master colorist tried to emulate a painterly effect by tonally building the three-dimensionality of the intertwining bodies.
Taken from the Dutch edition of Joan Blaeu’s Atlas Maior, the map is exceptionally well preserved; it retains its full margins and can be dated 1664-65.
Van der Krogt, Peter: “Joan Blaeu: Atlas Blaeu of 1665”, Cologne 2016.
The Dutch Golden Age and cartography
In the late 1500s, seven Dutch provinces in the northern Netherlands achieved independence from Spain and formed the Dutch Republic. Though the Dutch state was small and ruled by a decentralized system of control, it managed to cultivate a powerful seventeenth-century sea empire based on trade. This era became known as the Dutch Golden Age.
Due in large part to their powerful trade empire, the Dutch became known for cartography in the seventeenth century. Their publishing houses produced the highest quality work in Europe, particularly those maps and charts of foreign lands, and Dutch map-making set the bar for cartographic accuracy and artistry into the early-eighteenth century.
Some of the most well-known cartographers worked in Amsterdam during this period. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Blaeu family. Willem Janszoon Blaeu, who was responsible for this map, set up shop in Amsterdam. His son, Joan, succeeded him upon his death in 1638, continuing in his father’s position as Hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company and selling maps to the public. The Blaeu map presses, located near Amsterdam’s Dam Square, were the largest the world had ever seen to that time. When the printing press warehouse burned in 1672, it signalled the end of the Dutch Golden Age, in cartography at least.