One of the most fascinating navigational charts of the 16th century
25 Battista Agnese, Portolan AtlasIlluminated manuscript on vellum. Italy,Venice, 5 February 1544 (signed and dated).
293 x 216 mm. 14 (+2 blank) leaves.The 7 bifolia are pasted together back to back and form 10 double-page maps. – Place names in Latin, Italian and Spanish in a small humanistic minuscule, names of countries in square capitals, mostly in brown ink, but the names of towns in red. 10 double-page maps within a frame of 218 x 350 mm, coastlines in blue and green, islands mostly in green or goldwash. Compass lines in red, green or gold. Each map with a windrose in gold and coloured ink. The mileage scale is indicated at the corners of most maps. – In fine and fresh condition. – Original binding commissioned by the mapmaker’s workshop itself: contemporary Venetian gold-tooled reddish-brown morocco over wooden boards; the covers panelled with gilt fillets into two frames, the inner one with four gilt rosettes at the corners and the central compartment with 4 gilt knotwork ornaments. 3 of 4 original brass and leather clasps, here with clasps at the upper and lower edges as well. Inside the lower cover in the centre a small compass is inset under glass that is no longer in working order, although full functionality at the date of production of the atlas should be assumed.
PROVENANCE: 1. The atlas is signed on fol. 13v/14 “Baptista Agnese Januensis fecit Venetiis 1544 die 5 februarij.” 2. In 1546 it was acquired by Maximilian II of Burgundy, Lord of Beveren,Vere and Vlissigen, admiral of the Netherlands, governor of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht (1514-58). His name and titles appear in gold capitals on a cartouche dated 1546 on fol. 2v, facing his coat of arms incorporating the Order of the Golden Fleece on fol. 3. Maximilian had become a member of the Order in the same year. 3. Purchased by Countess Doheny from Rosenbach in 1948 (De Ricci 1962, no. 10); her sale Christie’s, 2 December 1987, lot 177. 4. European private collection.
CONTENTS: fol. 3v: declination table – fol. 4: armillary sphere – fol. 4v-5: zodiac – fol. 5v-6: Pacific Ocean according to the Vermeglio type, showing the coasts of North and South America, California as a peninsula. The area between Peru and the Straits of Magellan is left blank.Yucatan was originally drawn as an island and changed into a peninsula after the completion of the map – fol. 6v-7: Atlantic Ocean, showing the east coast of North and South America.Yucatan again changed into a peninsula – fol. 7v-8: Indian Ocean, showing the coasts of Asia and Africa, the names of the winds in Italian and Dutch – fol. 8v-9: North West and Central Europe. England and Scotland separated by a narrow strait – fol. 9v-10: Iberian peninsula and North West Africa – fol. 10v-11: Western Mediterranean – fol. 11v-12: Central Mediterranean, Italy and the Aegean – fol. 12v-13: Eastern Mediterranean – fol. 13v-14: Black Sea – fol. 14v-15: Oval world map. The course of Magellan’s voyage around the world of 1520 is clearly drawn, as well as the route from Spain to Peru – fol. 15v-16: blank; except for an added, but apparently contemporary, sepia pen and ink drawing of a sailing man-of-war. The flags identify the ship as Spanish, and also include the standard of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and his consort. Between 1536 and 1564 the enterprising Genoese chartmaker Battista Agnese produced in Venice a number of remarkably accurate and beautifully decorated navigational or portolan atlases on vellum. In contrast to other contemporary portolans which were used only for navigation, those from Agnese’s workshop were also published for presentational purposes. Portolan charts tended to be covered with a network of lines corresponding to the principal points of the compass and were divided by wind directions (Short 2003, p. 62). Their aim was a faithful rendering of the coastlines, while the inland areas were usually documented only superficially. In the Agnese portolans the coastlines of islands are given in green, while those of the mainland are rendered in blue; they are thus conceived according to the latest cartographical rules. The present portolan atlas, which is not recorded in the census of Agnese portolans published by Wagner in 1931 (also true of the portolans in St Petersburg from 26 May 1546 – Dürr 1993), belongs to a group of nine atlases, all produced between 1543 and 1545, classified by him as “Post-Californian Group C”. California appears here as a peninsula with the names of the coastal places; the Sultan Selim legend is mentioned on the maps of the eastern Mediterranean; and Holland, Utrecht and Brabant appear as separate islands. In this version the name “Brabant” has been erased from the third island and is now inserted on the mainland. The atlas with the closest resemblance to this one is in the Huntington Library (HM 26 – Wagner 1931).However, number 29 in Wagner’s census (Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek, ms. Fl. 140a) shares the same date, 5 February 1544, as well as an identical composition using the same maps, differing only in its physical dimensions.Wagner characterised this group of atlases by remarking that “the shape of North America shows transition; the Verrazano isthmus is preserved but the Terra de Bacaleos is different from that on the 1542 and 1543 maps.” Based on this observation one can draw the conclusion that the maps in this atlas were produced in the Agnese workshop in 1544, but were not sold until two years later, in 1546, when a Dutch patron purchased the portolan. The names of some places and winds are amended or actually added in Dutch (in the Agnese portolans of St. Petersburg and of the Museo Correr in Venice of c. 1550 the names of the winds are likewise given in Dutch, cf. Dürr 1993, p. 14) and it was possibly at this time that the rendering of Yucatan was changed into a peninsula. The names of the winds on the pastedowns are in Dutch. Thus, the maps were obviously bound after the sale to Maximilian II of Burgundy in 1546.
LITERATURE: De Ricci 1962, no. 10;Wagner 1931, pp. 1- 110;Wagner 1947, pp. 28-30; La Roncière/Mollat du Jourdin 1984, Fig. 41, p. 225; Dürr 1993; Lindgren 1993; exh. cat Bonn 2000, pp. 87-97 and 288-289, no. 297; Short 2003.