Single leaf of vellum, float-mounted and framed (20 x 28 inches; framed size: 28 x 35 inches). AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND RARE MANUSCRIPT PORTOLAN CHART in pen and black, red, blue, brown and green ink, heightened in gold and silver, of the island of Sicily, the title within a ribbon banner heightened in gold and silver and surrounding the arms of the Kingdom of Sicily oriented to the south, showing an erupting Mount Etna, all important ports and towns given in Italian and Catalan, river systems and mountains, decorated with a large and beautiful compass rose radiating rhumb lines, an elaborately decorated scale lower right, the sea with magnificent galleons and terrifying sea monsters, all surrounded by a border of black and gold fillets.
Provenance: Marvin Carton, his sale Sotheby's New York, February 2, 1985, lot 67
Jouanne/Joan Oliva was a member of a large family of Catalan hydrographers who for over a century dominated portolan chart making in the western Mediterranean. Charts signed by no fewer than sixteen different members of the Oliva family are recorded between 1538 and 1673, and individual members apparently worked throughout the Mediterranean world, as their charts originate from Majorca, Messina, Naples, Livorno, Florence, Venice, Malta, Palermo and Marseilles. Joan appears to have been the most prolific and highly regarded of this famous family. The earliest of his charts were executed in Messina but he is also recorded as living in Naples as well as Marseilles, where he is thought to have died. His known works are quite scarce, and in A. E. Nordenskiold's Periplus (Stockholm, 1897) the author was able to find only three atlases recorded in a private collection in Majorca, and one further atlas in the British Library. Nordenskiold estimated that ten more individual charts were in existence.
This portolan is an extremely rare example of Oliva's work. It is a highly decorative and sumptuous chart, rather than a purely functional tool for navigators, and was probably created for a wealthy patron. Sicily was in Spanish possession at the time this chart was created. It became a territory of Peter of Aragon in 1282 and reverted to the Spanish Crown after the unification of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella in 1479.