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“Icarus Spreading his Wings”

“Icarus Spreading his Wings”

The Early Modern City Brought to Life

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction “Icarus Spreading his Wings”
Source:
Rome Measured and Imagined
Author(s):
Jessica Maier
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226127774.003.0001

The city portrait, like portraits of human beings, arose in the fifteenth century as a commemorative form combining likeness with symbolism. It came to be associated with a category that the ancient geographer Ptolemy had termed chorography—small-scale terrestrial representation that conveyed outward resemblance along with intangible qualities. Renaissance city portraits like Francesco Rosselli’s “View with a Chain” of Florence or Jacopo de’ Barbari’s view of Venice were simultaneously faithful simulations and creative interpretations of their subjects. To convey their messages, city portraits assumed a range of graphic forms, from maps to pictorial views and ingenious hybrids. While they appeared in a variety of media, the most innovative works were prints that were geared toward the open market. Rome was one of the most frequently represented of all cities, and a place where all the challenges of urban representation crystallized. The Eternal City was a palimpsest of past and present glory, never just a neutral physical reality, and its complicated identity resisted any straightforward visual record.

Keywords:   city portrait, likeness, Ptolemy, chorography, maps, pictorial views, Rome, print, palimpsest

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