Due to the extremely detailed charts and the high artistic significance of its execution, the Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese is among the most exceptional navigational charts dating back to the 16th century. It represent the latest state of the time's geographical knowledge. The Atlas includes a map of the known world in oval projection pinpointing the route covered by Magellan as he circumnavigated of the globe. Just like all artifacts produced in Agnese’s workshop, the 1546 Portolan Atlas is a lavish de luxe codex. Battista Agnese is viewed as one of the most eminent and fruitful map makers of the 16th century. Born in Genoa, he came to manage a workshop in Venice. 80 to 100 navigational charts (portolans) of his are known, among which the 1546 Atlas is the finest example.
The Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese: Science and Mythology
The masterly crafted depictions that flank Agnese’s maps were the work an unknown artist from the Venetian school. The bright colours are intensified by an opulent use of gold. The whole manuscript, including the meticulously drawn maps, witness the absolute craftsmanship their creators possessed. An extremely unusual feature are the three extremely imaginative mythological decorations that embellish the Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese. They describe well-known episodes from Greco-Roman mythology, though showing them in the context of navigation and cartography: the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts, the storm during which Aeneas’ fleet perished, and the Greek god Atlas carrying the globe.
A Treasure Trove of Geographical Knowledge
Together with the mythological scenes, Portolan Atlas, now preserved in Saint Petersburg, is a treasure trove of geographical knowledge: it includes a table of the Sun declinations, an armillary sphere, a rendering of the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian world system, a cosmographic and astronomic text, but also 13 charts recording the most updated knowledge in geography: the New World and the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean with Africa and parts of Europe, the Indian Ocean (with the African coast and Southern Asia), Europe (without Spain) and much more. The extremely detailed map of Italy, in particular, has been deemed the best chart of its time. However, this de luxe Atlas was not handy for practical use in navigation; rather, it must have been used as a tool for studying geography and astronomy. Scholars have not been able to discover who commissioned the work; however, the patron must have certainly been a person a highly wealthy merchant or nobleman.
Original binding, made in Venice, made by two wooden plates which were covered with red brown patent leather and decorated with etched ornaments and gold tooling on both the upper and the lower plate.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Battista Agnese Portolan Atlas": Der Portolan-Atlas des Battista Agnese facsimile edition, published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1993