Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg

Venice (Italy) — 1546

The synthesis of artistry and precision: 13 beautiful nautical charts, including the route of Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the world

  1. Great artistry and precision make this one of the most fascinating navigational charts of the 16th century

  2. Illustrations from Greco-Roman mythology added to the charts betray the skill of Battista Agnese (ca. 1500–64)

  3. 13 charts of various regions including a world map showing the sea route of Ferdinand Magellan (ca. 1480–1521)

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg

The Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese occupies a special place among the cartographical revolution of the 16th century. Originating in 1546, it is a synthesis of the arts and one of the finest maps of its period because of the precision, attention to detail, and the high artistic value of its execution. Agnese is considered to be one of the most important and prolific map makers in the 16th century. We know of 80 to 100 navigational charts (portolans) from his pen, of which the Atlas of 1546 is the finest example. It consists of 13 charts of various regions of the world including a world map in oval projection showing the sea route chosen by Magellan for his circumnavigation of the globe. Its lavish, classically-themed adornment consists of luminous colors and the generous use of gold leaf. A true highpoint in the history of exploration and geography!

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese

The Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese is one of the most fascinating navigational charts of the 16th century because of the precision, attention to detail and the high artistic value of its execution. It represents the latest state of geographical knowledge at the time. The atlas includes a world chart in oval projection showing the sea route followed by Magellan during his circumnavigation of the world, during which he so gloriously confirmed the geographic discoveries of the 15th century. Like all the other creations from Agnese’s workshop, the Atlas of 1546 constitutes a sumptuous deluxe codex that was produced by several hands according to the traditional principle of division of labor. Agnese is considered to be one of the most important and prolific map makers in the 16th century. Born in Genoa, he owned a drawing workshop in Venice. We know of 80 to 100 navigational charts (portolans) from his pen, of which the Atlas of 1546 is the finest example.

One of the Most Fascinating Works of Art in Cartography

The numerous illustrations added to Agnese’s charts are ascribed to an unknown artist of the Venetian school and all betray a masterly hand. The luminosity of colors is enhanced by the exuberant use of gold. The whole work, including the carefully drawn charts, bears testimony to perfect craftsmanship. Very special and atypical features are the three mythological paintings which decorate the atlas in a highly inventive manner. They depict famous episodes from Greco-Roman mythology, illustrating them in the context of navigation and cartography: the departure of Jason with his Argonauts, the storm on the sea in which Aeneas’ fleet perished, and Atlas carrying the globe, as well as a mathematician and astronomer.

A Precious Source for the History of Geography

The Portolan Atlas, which is now kept in Saint Petersburg, contains mythological scenes, a table of the declinations of the Sun, an armillary sphere, a representation of the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian system of the world, a text with cosmographic and astronomic details, as well as 13 charts documenting the most recent geographic knowledge: the New World and the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean with Africa and parts of Europe, the Indian Ocean including the coasts of Africa and Southern Asia, Europe (without Spain and Southern Italy), Spain and Northern Africa with the Canaries, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, a very detailed map of Italy which may be considered the best map of its time, the Aegean Sea, the Holy Land, and a world map in oval projection showing the sea route chosen by Magellan for his circumnavigation of the globe. The luxurious Atlas was not really suitable for practical use in navigation. It is not known who commissioned the work; however, the patron must have been a person of high-rank and great wealth. The decoration with cosmographic and astronomic data, the table of the declinations of the sun and an armillary sphere as well as a compass in the form of a wind rose, suggest that it was destined for fundamental studies in cosmography and geography in theory rather than in practice.

A Synthesis of the Arts Made in Venice

The original binding, made in Venice, consists of two wooden plates which were covered with red-brown patent leather and decorated with etched ornaments and gold tooling on both the upper and the lower plate. The faithful facsimile edition of the Portolan Atlas is protected by a faithful reproduction of this leather binding.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Portolan-Atlas des Battista Agnese
Size / Format
40 pages / 42.5 × 28.7 cm (double page)
Origin
Italy
Date
1546
Language
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1993
Limited Edition: 700 copies
Detail Picture

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg

Lower Italy and Sicily

This map exemplifies the synthesis of artistry and science found in this cartographic masterpiece, which represents the latest state of geographic knowledge. In fact, this map of Italy is considered to be the finest of its time. An elaborate compass rose has been placed next to Rome on the western slopes of the Apennine Mountains, which are beautifully shaded and lead down to the toe of Calabria and the Strait of Messina separating Italy from Sicily.

Der Portolan-Atlas des Battista Agnese
Single Page

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg

World Map

This is the most significant map of this famous atlas. It represents the most current geographic knowledge of mid–16th century European cartographers with a surprising degree of accuracy and is rendered in an oval projection resembling a modern map. Rather than being a practical aid for navigators, this is a synthesis of the arts meant for display.

Brush strokes of gold leaf are judiciously applied across the double-page, ranging from marking significant cities to highlighting the hair of the figures blowing the world’s winds. However, the most interesting feature of this map is the simple black line that runs from southern Spain, across the globe, and back: it is the sea route chosen by Magellan for his circumnavigation of the globe.

Der Portolan-Atlas des Battista Agnese
Facsimile Editions

#1 Der Portolan-Atlas des Battista Agnese

Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Limited Edition: 700 copies
Binding: Gold embossed brown leather
Commentary: 1 volume (48 pages) by Tamara P. Worona and Arthur Dürst
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
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