July 15, 2011

Concert in St. Mark's Place, Venice, Italy

This photochrome print of Saint Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) in Venice is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Italy” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). The basilica, shown here, was originally built in 832, shortly after the remains of Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of Venice, were said to have been brought to the city from Alexandria, Egypt by two Venetian merchants. The church was destroyed in a fire, rebuilt at the end of the 10th century, and again in the 11th century. On the right side of the square can be seen the base of the 99-meter brick Campanile, or bell tower, which dates from the 16th century. The square was the main gathering place in the city. The 1906 edition of Baedeker's Italy: Handbook for Travellers noted: "The Place of St. Mark is the heart of Venice, and from this beats new life in every direction, through an intricate system of streets and canals, that bring it back again to the same centre. On summer-evenings all who desire to enjoy fresh air congregate here. The scene is liveliest when the military band plays...and possesses a charm all its own. In winter the band plays on the same days... and the Piazza is then a fashionable promenade.”

Via Roma, Naples, Italy

This photochrome print of the Via Roma in Naples is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Italy” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Stretching more than two kilometers from south to north, the Via Roma is one of the city's main thoroughfares. According to the 1909 edition of Baedeker's Italy from the Alps to Naples: Handbook for Travellers, "the noisy out-of-door life of the Neapolitans is picturesque and entertaining. . . . From morning to night the streets resound with the rattle or vehicles, the cracking of whips, the shouts of drivers, and the cries of vendors of edibles and other articles." The historic center of Naples, which features architecture from the medieval, Renaissance, and baroque periods, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Pitti Palace, Royal Residence, Florence, Italy

This photochrome print of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Italy” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Situated on the south side of the Arno River, the palace was designed by the Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1466) around 1458, for Luca Pitti (1398-1472), a friend and servant of the Medici family. The palace was still unfinished when Pitti died. In 1550, nearly 80 years after Pitti's death, Eleonora de Toledo, the wife of Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, bought the palace; it became the official royal residence, replacing the Palazzo Vecchio, during the reign of Eleonora’s son, Ferdinando I. The palace underwent numerous renovations between the mid-16th century and 17th century, which were undertaken chiefly by the architects Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511–92), Giulio Parigi (1571–1635), and Alfonso Parigi (1606–56). Among the attractions at the palace are museums and galleries, including the Palatine Gallery within the Boboli Gardens and the Museum of Modern Art.

Chateau des Comtes, Namur, Belgium

This photochrome print of the Château des Comtes in Namur is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Belgium” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Located in central Belgium, about 65 kilometers from Brussels, the town of Namur is known for its military history and its key role in Belgium’s defense. The town was founded on a rocky spur, at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse rivers. A main feature of the town is its stone citadel, which was built by the Merovingians in the early Middle Ages. The citadel was reconstructed around 1230 during the reign of Louis IX (St. Louis) of France (1214–70). Within the fortress is the Château des Comtes, which served as the main residence of Namur’s counts from the 10th to the 15th century. As a result of numerous sieges in the course of successive European wars, particularly those mounted by Louis XIV of France in 1692 and William III of England in 1695, few of Namur’s historic buildings remain, but the towering citadel survived as an iconic feature of the town.

Portolan Atlas of the Mediterranean Sea, Western Europe, and the Northwest Coast of Africa

Portolan charts came into use on sailing vessels in the Mediterranean Sea toward the end of the 13th century. Made for and, in many cases, by seamen, these nautical maps were characterized by the system of intersecting loxodromes, or rhumb lines, which crisscross each chart and the ornamented compass rose that usually appears. This atlas of five manuscript charts has been attributed to Juan Oliva, a member of the illustrious Oliva family of Catalan chartmakers who began working in Majorca some time before 1550. The atlas was compiled no earlier than 1590 and perhaps as late as the first few years of the 17th century. The maps in the atlas are: 1. the eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, the Aegean islands, Crete, Cyprus, and the Black Sea; 2. the central Mediterranean, including Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and Malta; 3. Western Europe and the British Isles, showing the entire coasts of Spain, Portugal, France, the Low Countries, Denmark, the southwest coast of Scandinavia, and the British Isles; 4. northwest Africa, including Madeira, the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands, and part of the Azores; and 5. a world map drawn on an oval projection. In the world map, North America, identified as “terra florida” and “nova francia,” is joined with eastern Asia. Several of the maps include drawings of ships.

Modern and Complete Map of the Entire World

Oronce Fine (1494–1555), also known by his Latinized name of Orontius Finaeus Delphinatus, was born in Briançon, France and trained as a medical doctor at the University of Paris. He was appointed to the chair of mathematics at the Collège Royal in Paris in 1531 and, like many mathematicians of his day, applied his knowledge to cartography. In addition to mapmaking, Fine published a multivolume work on mathematics, astronomy, and astronomical instruments, and he was an expert on military fortifications. Fine’s Nova, et integra universi orbis descriptio of 1531 is the earliest known map on which the name Terra australis appears. Ancient geographers had speculated about the existence of a southern continent, and European explorers often assumed that newly discovered lands in the Southern hemisphere, such as Tierra del Fuego and New Zealand, were extensions of this continent. The existence of Antarctica was not definitively proven until the 19th century. Fine’s Terra australis bears a certain resemblance to Antarctica, but it is unlikely that he had any knowledge of the continent beyond the speculations of the ancient and Renaissance geographers.