Framed Map of Belgium
This beautiful 17th-century map of Belgium was made by Dutch engraver and cartographer Nicolaes Visscher I (1618–1679). Carrying on the prolific art and map dealing business founded by his father Claes Janszoon Visscher (1587–1652) in Amsterdam, Nicolaes oversaw the publishing of several noteworthy atlases as well as maps with intricate border work (such as those in the Keur Bible), for which they were known throughout the Dutch Republic. A multi-page wall map of Zeeland (a western province of the Netherlands) remains one of his finest pieces, boasting not only a vast size but several fine cityscapes, decorative details, and bright hand-colouring. Visscher became a member of the Bookseller’s Guild in 1664 and received privileges, or the 17th century equivalent of copyrights, in the states of Holland and West Friesland to protect the ownership of engraving plates and cartographic knowledge obtained within his practice. After the death of Nicolaes, the business was passed on to his son Nicolaes II, followed by his widow Elisabeth, then publisher Peter Schenk the Younger (1698–1775). This map depicts several cities in Belgium, then the Southern Netherlands, including major economic and cultural centres such as Hoorn, Leuven, and Antwerp. Symbols denoting villages, city quarters, monasteries, chapels, castles, manor houses, and watermills can be seen smattered across the map (see the legend in the top left) while coloured lines of yellow, green, and red mark borders and distinguish regions. Though perhaps less decorative than other examples, this object represents the lucrativeness of 17th-century mapmaking, and its influence across industries.
At this time in history, the Southern Netherlands was home to several notable cultural centres including Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent, which produced artists of great renown in the 16th and 17th centuries. Antwerp was also a well established centre of printing and publishing and benefitted greatly from its proximity to the University of Leuven. It was later overtaken by Amsterdam as the largest commercial centre for mapmaking and print production. In the Dutch capital, the Visschers and world-famous Blaeu and Hondius publishing houses, made their fortunes and pushed the industry further as they sought to meet the demand for maps amidst global exploration and colonization.