Single sheet (16 ¼ x 21 inches). 2 fine engraved views of Mexico City and Cusco, the titles within fine mannerist strapwork cartouches, all with EXCEPTIONALLY FINE, DELICATE ORIGINAL HAND COLOUR IN FULL, French text on verso (a bit browned, one or two spots).
Two magnificent views of Mexico City and Cusco on one sheet, from the French edition of George Braun and Frans Hogenberg’s landmark work “Civitates orbis terrarum,” completed in Cologne between 1572 and 1618, containing among the most beautiful and important images of Renaissance cities. With the 2-inch “crack” in the sky above Mexico City that occurred during the printing process. This engraving of Mexico City was founded as Tenochtitlan “around 1325 on an island in Lake Texcoco by wandering Aztec tribes. As the number of inhabitants grew to over 100,000 over the next 200 years, so the city spread across ever more of the lake’s islets, which were linked by dams and bridges and drained by canals. The plate shows the magnificent central square with the palace of Moctezuma II and the Templo Mayor dedicated to the god Huitzilopochtli, where human sacrifice was performed. Reports of cannibalism and human sacrifice are a recurring theme of contemporary European accounts and were used to justify the Spanish conquest. Although the Aztecs were able to hold off Cortés and his troops in 1519, Tenochtitlan was taken by the Spanish in 1520 and the Aztec rulers put to death. The temple and the city were extensively damaged, and a church and a palace for the viceroy of New Spain were built on the central square. The new city was called Mexico City, one of the names for the Aztecs” (Taschen, p. 132).
The engraving of Cusco shows its straight roads clearly “although the blocks of houses are slightly too small and are drawn in distorted perspective. According to legend, Cusco was founded around 1200 by Manco Capac, the Quechua Indian who became the first Inca: the Quechua name for the city is Qusqu, meaning ‘navel of the world.’ On 15 November 1533 Cusco was conquered by the Spanish under the command of Francisco Pizarro, who tried to manipulate the Inca rulers to his own ends. These latter broke their alliance with the Spanish in 1536 and the ensuing Inca uprising lasted until 1572” (Taschen, p. 132).
The “Civitates” was the first extensive series of town views that treated its subject matter in an accurate and meaningful way. Earlier collections of town views were far more limited in scope, and often made no real attempt to render the subject city with any degree of realism, being simply a record of the existence of a town. Certainly the striking beauty and accuracy of Braun and Hogenberg’s production was entirely unprecedented. Earlier collections contained no more than a handful of views, usually only of the more important cities, while the “Civitates” contained literally hundreds of views, including many of smaller towns for which no earlier views are known. Even for the larger, important cities, the “Civitates” is of the utmost importance to the history of their topography. Koeman II, B&H 1, 58.