The Early Modern City View Re-Observed
Mark Rosen: University of Texas at Dallas
The gap between the art and the science involved in producing Early Modern bird’s-eye views has long puzzled historians. On a visual level, city views were posited as being oriented toward a single perspective while simultaneously opening up vast, impossibly elevated cityscapes. Frequently they included the artist–cartographer’s self-portrait within the image, often shown sketching the city from a high hilltop—as if to verify the view as something witnessed and drawn directly from life. Considering that such views were almost always products of the studio stitched together from multiple site drawings and instrument-aided measurements, why did cartographers, artists, and geographers continually play down the scientific underpinnings of the viewmaking enterprise, treating it as a realm of direct, unmediated observation? This talk traces the theoretical and visual discourses concerning the purpose of the city view in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It will detail how measurement was translated into convincing perspectival pictures, and will further address the significant reversal that occurred in those discourses around 1600, when the emphasis upon the artist–cartographer’s transformative abilities would be replaced by a new stress upon the neutralizing power of scientific instruments.
Mark Rosen is Assistant Professor of Aesthetic Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. He received his Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of California, Berkeley, and has held a National Endowment for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Medici Archive Project in Florence as well as a two-year Samuel H. Kress Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. He has published in The Art Bulletin, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, Oud Holland, Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences, Nuncius, and other journals. His book manuscript, The Painted Map in the Age of Print and the Era of Exploration, is currently under review.