The Mappa Mundi 1457, also known as Portolano 1, is a beautiful and very famous example of cartographic document. Coming from the de’ Medici’s collections in the Bibliotheca Palatina, this oval-shaped map embodies one of the most significant representations of cartography from the 15th century. The work is dated back to the second half of the 15th century, specifically 1457.
Unknown Artists of the Mappa Mundi 1457
The Mappa Mundi 1457 is the work of a cartographer of catalan origin, who created this magnificent document with the help of an illuminator, and possibly, of a copyist – all unknown.
The work – written partly in Latin and partly in vulgar language – is executed on parchment and it exhibits vivid illustrations with lively colors such as white, light blue, green, red, and their different shades. The decorations feature a significant use of gold.
Detailed Iconographic Apparatus
Both the iconographic and textual apparatus are significantly detailed: the seas are filled with fish, mermaids, and ships, whilst the dry land features perspectival drawings of cities, standards, rulers’ portraits, all realistically illustrated.
With over 300 toponyms, the Portolano 1 is one of the first documents bearing evidence of the increasing importance of sailing beyond the Mediterranean trading routes. The map clearly shows a deep interest in the possibility of navigation in the Mare Indicum (today’s Indian Ocean), simultaneously revealing the dreams, hopes, and limitations of expansion and trade with the Indian civilization of mid-15th century.
The map features a beautiful example of littera textualis, the most popular version of gothic script.