Carta Nautica Vitr 4-21

Carta Nautica Vitr 4-21 – Sorli Ediciones – Vitr. 4-21 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)

Messina (Italy) — 1620-1660

A splendid example of portolan maps from the late Mallorcan school originating in Messina: an artistic and surprisingly precise depiction of the Mediterranean Sea and its adjacent regions

  1. This map of the Mediterranean from ca. 1400–20 is an exemplary specimen of a medieval portolan chart

  2. Although undated and unsigned, it can be stylistically attributed to the workshop of Plácido Caloiro y Oliva

  3. The accurate map was painted with bright shades of red, green, and blue and illuminated with gold leaf

Carta Nautica Vitr 4-21

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Carta Nautica Vitr 4-21

This portolan chart of the Mediterranean and neighboring regions from ca. 1400–20 is an excellent specimen of this genre of map. As is typical, the neck of the parchment is west-oriented and features a medallion miniature in the form of the setting sun with an image of the Madonna and Child in front of a gold leaf background. Floral borders painted red, blue, and gold run along the north and south sides of the map. This map is characteristic of the late Mallorca school and, although anonymous and undated, it is stylistically characteristics of the workshop of Plácido Caloiro y Oliva, whose family had relocated to Messina, Sicily after the expulsion of the Spanish Jewry in 1492.

Carta Nautica Vitr 4-21

Plácido Caloiro y Oliva (b. ca. 1611) was a prolific cartographer and the master of a workshop in Messina. He produced 29 signed nautical charts that have survived to the present, as well as three more that are attributed to him based on their design and features, including this fine specimen. His family name was originally Ollives, but after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, they moved from Mallorca to Sicily and Italianized their name to Oliva. The chart is pasted on parchment and has three folds so that it closes like a folder with the parchment collar superimposed, which was a fairly common way of preserving this type of document. The inclusion of a medallion miniature of the Madonna and Child is one of the characteristics that allowed researchers to attribute the map to him because he, like Juan de la Cosa (ca. 1450–1510), included it on virtually all of his maps.

A Splendidly Furnished Map

Although there are no cities, which is unusual, the map is still richly adorned and other decorative elements include a camel walking across North Africa, a grotesque labelled gattumanuni signia or “image of a human cat”, a mosque, the Red Sea painted literally, Mt. Sinai, Mt. Ararat with Noah's ark, and three crosses on Golgotha. The island of Sicily serves as the main compass rose of the map, which has 10 altogether as well as two half-roses, some ornately decorated. There are also two windroses independent of this system: one off Sagres Point, the southwesternmost tip of Europe, and in the Eastern Mediterranean to the northwest of Alexandria. Place names are written in Italian in a manner that allows them to be read from any direction when the map is laid out on a flat surface.


Portolan map of the Mediterranean, Black and Azov Seas and Atlantic coasts of Europe and Africa
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Carta Nautica Vitr 4-21 – Sorli Ediciones – Vitr. 4-21 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
Sorli Ediciones – Valencia, 2006
Limited Edition: 530 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Carta Nautica Vitr 4-21

Sorli Ediciones – Valencia, 2006

Publisher: Sorli Ediciones – Valencia, 2006
Limited Edition: 530 copies
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Format of facsimile: 33.0 × 68.2 cm
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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