VINGBOONS, Johannes (1616/1617 – 1670) - TRASMONTE, Juan Gomez de (1580- ca 1647). Forma y Levantado de La Ciudad de Mexico. Ju:o Gomez de Trasmonte Ao. 1628. Amsterdam: Johannes Blaeu, ca 1665.
2 sheets joined (20 4/8 x 29 inches; 16 x 21 2/8 inches to the neat line), EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND EARLY BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF MEXICO CITY, original pen and ink and watercolour wash over black chalk, and beneath very fine, almost invisible blind gridlines, on paper watermarked with a crowned escutcheon with bear, identified by Th. Laurentius as the Arms of Switzerland, dating from 1600 - 1650, and often used in the Netherlands, contemporaneously laid down on 17th-century paper.
A BROAD PANORAMIC AND BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF MEXICO CITY, looking east, showing the layout of the City surrounded by fields, gardens, and jungle, with Lake Texcoco in the background, other islands, low peaks on the eastern shore, and the Tlaloc mountain range beyond; the title and 2 keys or legends within banners running along the top edge: "Por la correspondencia de los numeros se hallan en esta copia los conventos y cosas senalados", listing in the left-hand corner "A. Palacio Re.l / B. Cathedral. / C. Casa de Cabildo. / D. Casa Arpt. / F. universidad. / G. Alameda. / Las demas casas estan entendias por su demonstracion como as distinto parece por la plana. Ju:o Gomez de Trasmonte Ao. 1628"; all surrounded by borders of black ink and red and yellow wash (central vertical crease from old fold, evidence of early atlas mounting on verso).
THE FIRST CHOROGRAPHIC IMAGE OF MEXICO CITY, ONE OF ONLY FOUR EXAMPLES KNOWN OF VINGBOONS' magnificent image of the Mexico City, "Forma y Levantado de La Ciudad de Mexico", or "Plan and Elevation of the City of Mexico", this copy with text in the ORIGINAL SPANISH, rather than Dutch. ONE OF ABOUT 240 VIEWS AND MAPS OF THE DUTCH GLOBAL EMPIRE DURING ITS GOLDEN AGE, CREATED BY VINGBOONS, AND OF EXCEPTIONAL IMPORTANCE, BEAUTY, AND RARITY IN THE MARKET
The other known copies of Vingboons' view of Mexico City are found in:
- the Christina Atlas in the Vatican Library, signed by Vingboons, undated and in Dutch;
- the Castello Collection in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, Italy, acquired by Cosimo III in Amsterdam in 1667, as our copy, with attribution to Trasmonte, dated 1628, and in Spanish;
- and the "Eugene Atlas", or the Blaeu-Van der Hem Atlas, in the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna (although these may not be by Vingboons), as our copy, with attribution to Trasmonte, dated 1628, and in Spanish. The almost invisible gridlines on our example of the view of Mexico City may have been added by an engraver with the Van Keulen firm, with a view to publishing the atlas as part of their catalogue.
-The Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris holds two unfinished, comparatively rough images of the view of Mexico City, apparently by the collector Francois-Roger de Gaignieres (1642-1715) (see Connolley and Mayer, "Vingboons, Trasmonte and Boot: European Cartography of Mexican Cities in the Early Seventeenth Century", in "Imago Mundi", volume 61, Part I: 47-66, 2009, page 49).
Vingboons' beautiful view of Mexico City is after an original drawing by Mexican architect Juan Gomez Trasmonte, whose official title was "Maestro Mayor de Obras", in 1628. It shows the Cathedral famously designed by Trasmonte, under construction, and the standing water caused by the periodic floods that inundated the City, but also the intricate system of dykes, causeways, sluice gates, and the famous aqueduct designed by the Flemish military engineer Adrian Boot to protect it. Boot had been appointed by Royal Decree by King Philip III of Spain, and arrived in Mexico in September of 1614. Trasmonte's view of Mexico City shows the capital of New Spain as "a well laid-out European city containing important civic and ecclesiastical buildings,...[and illustrates] the threat of flooding, while at the same time indicating the ideal solution: reinforced dykes, causeways, sluice gates, bridges, canals for irrigation and navigation, and even perhaps locks to enable the passage of boats between the city and the higher level lake of Texcoco" (Connolley and Mayer, page 57).
Unfortunately only one year after Trasmonte's original designs, the city suffered a particularly devastating flood in 1629. The flood was so severe that thousands of the inhabitants were drowned, a fact recorded on the example of Vingboons' view of Mexico City in the Christina Atlas in the Vatican. Trasmonte also worked on Puebla cathedral, and started San Lorenzo church and supervised repairs to the Viceroy's palace. "Later, he directed the maintenance of the city's flood-protection system, including the canals and san Lazaro dike. After 1624, he was frequently consulted on a major project to artificially drain Mexico valley" (Connolley and Mayer, page 55).
Trasmonte's image was not originally intended for publication, but was created as an administrative document, prepared in conjunction with his written proposals to protect the City from the floods that the City was so prone to. MOST IMPORTANTLY, THE IMAGE REPRESENTS A DEPARTURE FROM THE FORMER IDEALISED MAP-VIEW OF TENOCHTITLAN ASSOCIATED WITH CORTEZ. IT IS A BROAD, ARTISTIC PANORAMA ENCOMPASSING THE WHOLE CITY, the gardens and fields that surround it, jungle, the lake, and the mountains beyond. Yet is is still detailed enough to identify streets, and individual buildings, listed in the accompanying legends. A 1933 study by Toussaint, Gomez Orozco and Fernandez of the 1907 chromolithograph copies of the Blaeu-van der Hem example of the view of Mexico City, like the Arader Galleries, "found it coincided with the modern urban structure and buildings except for minor details such as the numbering of buildings and the omission of two blocks to the West of the city" (Connolley and Mayer page 54).
The whereabouts of the original Trasmonte drawing of Mexico City is currently unknown, but that it arrived in the Netherlands, with Adrian Boot's own two views of Acapulco and Veracruz and Trasmonte's accompanying ground-plan of Mexico City, at a time when the Netherlands was at war with Spain, was quite a remarkable feat. As both Boot and Trasmonte can be shown to be in Mexico City well into the 1630s, it can be assumed that these important documents, designed as supporting evidence for a complex system of flood defences for the capital city of New Spain, were intended to be sent by dispatch to the King of Spain, who had commissioned Boot. Connolley and Mayer "suggest that the drawings were sent to Spain in the Flota that on 8 September 1628 was intercepted and captured by Dutch ships under the command of Piet Hein. Soon after the arrival of the drawings in Amsterdam, David Vinckboons [father of Johannes] was commissioned to make large oil paintings from them... the oil paintings were created between 1628, the date on the Mexico city views [as here], and 1632, when they appear in the Stadholder's Noordeinde palace inventory" (Connolley and Mayer, page 60), and another in the West India Company's office in Middleburg" (Kagan and Marias in their "Urban Images of the Hispanic World", page 153). These larger oil-paintings were in Middelburg until the 1930s. Dr. W.S. Unger and Dr. Frederick Caspar Wieder describe original Vinckboons' oil painting of Mexico City as being 105 x 140 cms, on canvas, and with the title, as here, "Forma y Levantado de La Ciudad de Mexico", and signed "Jui Gomes Trasmonte". Tragically, these paintings were destroyed when the centre of Middelburg, including the town hall and its contents, were hit by incendiary bombs in 1940.
In addition to the commissioned oil-paintings, Johannes Vingboons also created watercolour copies of the Trasmonte and Boot images, which were bound by Johannes Blaeu into atlases. Martine Gosselink in her "Land in Zicht", Amsterdam, 2007, and the historian of cartography Dr. Frederick Caspar Wieder (1874-1943), in his "Monumenta Cartographia", 1925-1933, have recorded copies of this image in Vingboons atlases in:
- the three-volume atlas in the Vatican library, once in the library of Christina Alexandra, Queen regent of Sweden from 1633 to 1654, and so known as the Christina Atlas, - in this atlas the four views of Mexico are signed by Vingboons;
- the Castello Collection of 82 unbound manuscript maps kept in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence, Italy, acquired by Cosimo III in Amsterdam in 1667;
- and the "Eugene Atlas", or the Blaeu-Van der Hem Atlas, in the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, compiled by the wealthy Amsterdam lawyer Laurens van der Hem (1621-1678), from 600 maps published in the 1662 Latin edition of Blaeu's "Atlas Maior", to which van der Hem added more than 1,500 charts, plans, views and other images, including four volumes of manuscript maps and topographical drawings from the so-called 'Secret Atlas' made for the Dutch East India Company, or VOC, in about 1650, amongst which are copies of Vingboon's 4 images of Mexico made for the 'Secret Atlas' by Vingboons' studio (Connolley and Mayer).
- other records show the "Beudeker Atlas", parts of which survive in the Rijksarchief in The Hague, but without this view of the City of Mexico;
- the "Van Keulen/Bom Atlas", which we believe our particular copy of the view comes, having been disbound by Frederik Muller in 1887;
- and a collection of views known as the "de Salis Atlas", but again without views of Mexico.
In all nearly 240 sheets of maps, plans and views, with or without Vingboons’ signature, are found in different libraries throughout the world.
Dr. Wieder painstakingly tracked down as many sheets of views and maps from the Van Keulen/Bom Atlas in libraries as he could. In 1932, 63 sheets of views and maps out of a total of 76 known maps and views named in Muller's catalogues had been traced; of these, 34 were found in Brazil, 5 in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, 13 in the Library of Congress in Washington, as the bequest of Harrisse, and 11 in Rotterdam. As one of the sheets located at the Recife in Brazil bore the number 114, it can be assumed that the atlas from which our view of Mexico City originally came contained at least 114 sheets of views and maps.
Connolly and Mayer, illustrate our example of Vingboons' view of Mexico City, in their "Vingboons, Trasmonte and Boot: European Cartography of Mexican Cities in the Early Seventeenth Century", clearly showing the pencilled number "7" in the upper right-hand corner, with corresponding views of Acapulco, Veracruz, and the Plan of Mexico City, as a recent find in 2007. A close examination of the 13 maps and views of the Henry Harrisse bequest held at the Library of Congress, shows very clearly that the Arader Galleries example of the Vingboons view of Mexico City IS FROM THE SAME ATLAS AS THOSE FROM THE BEQUEST.
Amongst other similarities, with the views and maps of the Harrisse bequest, the Library of Congress's view of Cuba by Vingboons probably shows them the best, it is clearly painted by the same artist, using the same colour pallet, conforms in dimensions and style, is surrounded by the same red and yellow watercolour wash border, is annotated in the same hand-writing, is on the same paper, with the same watermark, was also laid down on paper at the time, so that it is of double-thickness, is numbered "78" in pencil in the upper right-hand corner in the same hand, has clearly been removed from a paper mount or stub which would have bound it into an atlas, that was of the same style as the Arader Galleries example of the view of Mexico City, and very interestingly has the same blind grid lines drawn over the image as the Arader example, as do other views and maps of the Harrisse bequest.
Therefore it can be assumed that the Arader Galleries view, and the other 3 of Mexico are new to the census, making a new total of 66 sheets of views and maps found Van Keulen, Frederik Muller atlas.
Johannes Vingboons "came from an illustrious family of the Dutch Golden Age. He was the son of the painter and engraver David Vinckboons, and at least four of his brothers were cartographers and engravers... all were involved with the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC). Johnannes is known for his manuscript atlases made in collaboration with Joan Blaeu under contract to these companies" (Connolly and Mayer, page 48). Vingboons unpublished atlases were the prizes of the aristocracy, with each atlas numbering upwards of one hundred sheets of views and maps of ports around the known world, each painstakingly created by hand with an exquisite eye to detail and prevailing Dutch aesthetic, with decorative details probably not found in the original drawings on which they were modelled.
"All these maps are drawn by hand on paper bearing water-marks later than the year 1652.Their production must be referred to the years 1650-1670, chiefly to 1665-1670. The maps in the copies at the Vatican showed the Americas as far as their exploration to date allowed, the Atlantic coast lands of Africa. The maps in the collections in the Hague, in the State Archive, and in Florence, in the Laurentiana, - embrace Africa. – the littoral of the Indian Ocean, - as well as the coasts of Asia as far north as Japan. The Vatican atlas includes general maps; the North Sea, the North Pole, Spitsbergen, the Americas and North America. Also the Vatican Atlas contains a map, in 56 separate sheets, of the possessions of the West India Company; it shows both coasts of America and the Atlantic coast of Africa on a scale 1:1.500.000. The map is supplemented by views and plans of these regions" (Bagrow, ed. "Anecdota Cartographica II: Vingboons' Maps", Stockholm, 1948).
It is incredible to think that it is not known that Vingboons ever left the Netherlands, but less hard to understand why the surviving copies of Vingboons' masterwork were once owned by Queens and Princes.
- as part of an atlas of at least 114 sheets of views and maps, with Weduwe (ie Anna Hendrina Calkoen, Widow of) Gerard Hulst van Keulen, who was at the helm of the famous Van Keulen publishing firm of Amsterdam between 1801 and 1810, although the company continued to publish under her imprint until 1885, even though the catalogue had passed to the descendants of employee Jacob Swart Boonen, Gerrit Dirk Bom, who published a history and bibliography of the firm, "Bijdragen tot eene geschiedenis van het geslacht "Van Keulen" als Boekhandelaars, Uitgevers, Kaart - en Instrumentmakers in Nederland; eene Biblio-cartographische Studiein", Amsterdam: H.G. Bom, 1885, in the hopes of finding a buyer for the firm;
- as part of an atlas with the Amsterdam antiquarian book and mapseller Fredrik Muller & Co., who (according to the Library of Congress, which in turn holds a number of sheets of views and maps from that copy of the atlas, bequeathed to them by the bibliographer Henry Harrisse), sold the maps and views individually at public sales in 1887, this map numbered "7" in the top right-hand corner, and with other close similarities outlined above, in a similar fashion to the maps and views held by the Library of Congress as part of the Harrisse bequest;
-purchased in Antwerp in about 1946, and by descent to the most recent owner.
The very fine, almost invisible pattern of grid lines in blind over the watercolour image in the Arader Galleries view of Mexico City, is also found on most of the maps and views from the same Van Keulen - Frederik Muller atlas, held at the Library of Congress as part of the Harrisse bequest. Since such grid lines are commonly applied to an existing image before the image is to be copied, it is interesting to speculate that either the Van Keulen publishing house, or Frederik Muller desired to engrave the maps and views for publication. But, in spite of their intentions, and their obvious importance and appeal, Vingboons' spectacular and detailed watercolours remained unpublished, with any real accuracy, until the 20th-century.
In 1671, in his "De Nieuwe en Onbekende Weereld: of Beschryving van America en 't Zuid-Land", Arnoldus Montanus (1625?-1683) published a view of Mexico City clearly based on Vingboons' image, which in turn was copied by John Ogilby for his "America: being the latest, and most accurate description of the New World", of the same year. Engraved views "loosely inspired" (Connolly and Mayer) by them were widely published in the 18th- and 19th-centuries. In 1907, A. Ruffoni of Florence published a series of close chromolithographs of three of the Mexican subject views, but not the plan of Mexico City, for a Mexican market. They were commissioned by Francisco del Paso y Troncoso after the views in the Blaeu-van der Hem atlas in Vienna.
The van Keulen family, who once owned the Arader Galleries copy of Vingboons' view of Mexico City, operated a chart-making and publishing firm in Amsterdam for nearly 200 years. It was founded by Johannes van Keulen (1676-1718) who registered his business as a “bookseller and cross-staff maker”. Under his management the "Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Faakel" (New Shining Sea Torch) was begun in 1681. It was expanded to five volumes, and finally to six volumes with the addition of material from the secret files of the East India Company. In 1693 van Keulen acquired the stock of Hendrik Doncker. Johannes van Keulen established himself in Amsterdam in 1678 and in 1680 he obtained a privilege from the States General of Holland and West Friesland allowing him to print and publish maritime atlases and shipping guides. This privilege, which protected against the illegal copying of printed material, was especially important for the cartographer's atlases, which were produced with extensive initial costs. Van Keulen named his firm "In de Gekroonde Lootsman" (In the Crowned Pilot), and began collaborating with cartographers Claes Janz Vooght and Johannes van Luyken.
The firm would go on to become one of the most successful publishing firms in Amsterdam; and produce "the largest and finest marine atlases in Holland" (Koeman). Van Keulen's first atlas was his "Zee Atlas" with about 40 charts. "The culmination in the development of Dutch pilot books was reached with the publication of "De Nieuwe Groote Lichtende Zee-Fackel…" in 1681...The work was immediately recognized as superior to anything else on the market and enjoyed a considerable reputation for accuracy and detail" (Martin & Martin, 11). On the death of Joannes in 1704 the firm passed to his son, then his grandson, and on the death of Cornelis Buys van Keulen the name of the firm "was altered after much palaver into Gerard Hulsst van Keulen. The surviving son conducted the publishing business with more ambition than before. A considerable number of books appeared in the period 1778-1801. Greater activity was developed in the cartographic branch and new issues of the "Zee-Fakkel" again saw the light" (Koeman page IV 279).
By the time the van Keulen family owned the atlas from which the Arader Gallery view of Mexico City comes, it was operating under the imprint of Weduwe (ie Anna Hendrina Calkoen, Widow of) Gerard Hulst van Keulen, who was head of the firm between 1801 and 1810, although the company continued to publish under her imprint until 1885. At the time of the atlas' purchase by Frederik Muller the van Keulen firm was being operated by the descendants of employee Jacob Swart Boonen, including Gerrit Dirk Bom, who published a history and bibliography of the firm, "Bijdragen tot eene geschiedenis van het geslacht "Van Keulen" als Boekhandelaars, Uitgevers, Kaart - en Instrumentmakers in Nederland; eene Biblio-cartographische Studiein", Amsterdam: H.G. Bom, 1885, in the hopes of finding a buyer for the firm, but the possessions of the firm were sold at auction in 1885, bringing 200 years of "DeGekroonde Lootsman" to an end. Connolley and Mayer, "Vingboons, Trasmonte and Boot: European Cartography of Mexican Cities in the Early Seventeenth Century", in "Imago Mundi", volume 61, Part I: 47-66, 2009; Bagrow, ed. "Anecdota Cartographica II: Vingboons' Maps", Stockholm, 1948; Kagan and Marias "Urban Images of the Hispanic World, 1493-1793", chapters 3 and 6, Yale, 2000; Gosselink "Land in Zicht", Amsterdam, 2007; Wieder "Monumenta Cartographia", 1925-1933. WE KNOW OF NO OTHER WORK BY VINGBOONS TO HAVE BEEN OFFERED PUBLICLY IN THE LAST 70 YEARS.