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Mapmaker Biography: Franz Hogenberg (1535 - 1590)


Franz Hogenberg, another of the preeminent cartographers of the sixteenth century, was born in the prosperous Belgian city of Mechelen, seen above in this bird's eye view of his own making, from his and Georg Braun's great atlas of cities, Civitates Orbis Terrarum. As were many cartographers, he was descended from a talented and accomplished father. Nicolaas Hogenberg was a painter, engraver and etcher originally from Munich, who moved west after completing some important commissioned artworks in the city. Franz was yet an infant when his father died, but nevertheless, the son followed rather closely in his father’s footsteps, adding cartography to the list of his father’s professions, probably due to the influence of his mother’s second husband, Hendrik Terbrugghen, a fairly well-known, respected cartographer.

Franz is known to have left Mechelen and lived in Antwerp for some time, where he worked for the famous printer Christoffel Plantijn. He became quite well-known there owing at least in part to his numerous engravings illustrating many of the riotous and violent current events of his time, as seen in this engraving. 

Throughout much of the 16th century repercussions of the Reformation continued to ebb and flow across a convulsed Europe. In 1566 in the Netherlands in what is referred to as "Beeldenstorm" (image storm), protestants began rioting - vandalizing and even destroying Catholic works of art. In response, the Spanish monarch Philip II sent troops to control the situation. In 1568 Hogenberg and his wife came under suspicion because his pictorial depictions and illustrated narratives of the Beeldenstorm were considered sympathetic to the cause. For this they were banned from the city, whereupon they moved to Cologne, where he worked for some years. Interestingly, he and his second wife were eventually forced to leave Cologne, also due to their religious leanings.

His last move was to the free city of Hamburg, the lower image of the two cities depicted here, Lubeck and Hamburg, also the work of Hogenberg and Braun. Both cities are known for being possessed of an independent spirit, and both pride themselves in this heritage. The depictions reveal wealthy and self-contained cities, with an impressive number of imposing religious edifices, each of which is named. Seagoing vessels of myriad forms ply the water near the cities, and a variety of livestock indicating the practice of animal husbandry graze on a stretch of land in front of the city proper of Hamburg, where also are depicted pillory stocks and a gibbet.

Despite the repercussions due to his religious views, Hogenberg continued expanding and refining his work. His contributions to cartography are prodigious. When Ortelius published his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Hogenberg himself did most of the engraving and made significant other contributions to its eventual publication. The publishing of an atlas was not only a scientific undertaking, it was also a commercial venture requiring financial resources and careful, strategic planning. Ortelius was a shrewd businessman, and the atlas was a great success of which myriad volumes have been written. Hogenberg learned a great deal with the production of this atlas, and he, along with George Braun and Abraham Ortelius developed the concept for an atlas of cities, with an eye to benefiting financially from the increased tourism of the era.

Sixteenth century Europe saw a surprising rise in the amount of travel done from country to country or kingdom to kingdom. While there had always been religious pilgrims and pilgrimages, the number of secular travelers had increased significantly. Tradesmen, students, ‘tourists’ and other adventurers went from one place to another in steadily increasing numbers. These travelers visited the great cities of Europe, as they were the centres of education, commerce, culture and social life. As more people traveled, interest in both foreign and local cities increased, becoming at least as great as the interest in foreign countries and unknown regions. The emergence of the idea of an atlas of cities came as no surprise to the literati, and two years after the publication of the first modern world atlas in 1570, the aforementioned Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius – a book came on the market that tried to describe and depict every city in the world. Hogenberg and Braun published their wildly successful atlas Civitates Orbis Terarrum – the Cities of the World.

The first volume of the Civitates was published in Cologne in 1572, with the sixth and final volume appearing in 1617. This great atlas of cities, edited by Georg Braun and largely engraved by Franz Hogenberg, eventually contained 546 prospects, bird-eye views and map views of cities from all over the world. Braun (1541-1622), a cleric of Cologne, was greatly assisted in this project by the close and continued interest of Abraham Ortelius, who is thought to have helped in organizing the Civitates, which appears to have been intended as a companion for his Theatrum. The titles are similar and there are myriad references contemporary to them regarding the complementary nature of them. As mentioned, travel had become more universal in Europe, thus the impetus for an atlas of cities was of a slightly different nature, one for which there had been few successful precedents, and with an eye to commercial success as well as to an informative geographic and ethnographic study.

Over a hundred different prestigious artists and cartographers worked on compiling and publishing the Civitates including such masters as Sebastien Munster. They compiled information and drew new maps based on drawings, existing maps, and recent reports by explorers, and the end result provided a uniquely comprehensive view of urban life at the turn of the sixteenth century. To make the Civitates even more interesting and appealing to the eye, Braun added figures in local dress to the maps. This feature had been anticipated in Hans Lautensack's etched view of Nuremberg, 1552, with groups of citizens in the rural foreground adding further authenticity to the highly accurate topographical details. However, it is widely accepted that Braun's motives for adding figures to the view went further.

With the Ottoman Empire making ever deeper inroads into Central Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, Braun’s additions had a political bent, and he optimistically stated that an atlas thus illustrated would not be scrutinized for military secrets by the Turks, for their religion forbade them from not only drawing but even from gazing upon representations of the human form. Each map was also accompanied by a printed account of the town or city’s history, traditions and commerce, as in this highly detailed map which is one of the earliest obtainable bird’s eye views (1574) of the great city of Mediolanum (Milan) in northern Italy. The view conveys an impressive picture of the city's distinctively regular, nearly symmetrical layout and could be used to this day for exploring the historic centre of Milan, a city which was as popular with 16th century tourists as it is with tourists today.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum is recognized as one of the greatest achievements of late 16th and early 17th century European cartography, one which firmly established its creators, Hogenberg and Braun, in the pantheon of 16th century mapmakers. For the first time, a publication afforded the viewer a detailed and comprehensive visual tour of the major European cities and settlements in an organized and detailed fashion, along with cities from disparate places around the globe. The plates for the work later came into the possession of the Dutch mapmaker Jan Jansson, who after making some modifications, republished the town views in 1657 in Amsterdam. Lavishly decorated and bursting with information, the Civitates Orbis Terrarum always was, and is to this day, a prized possession in its owner's library. 


Nicolaas Hogenberg (1500 – 1539) father of Franz Hogenberg

Nicolaas’ best known work is his series of etchings entitled 'The entry of Charles V and Pope Clement VII into Bologna', illustrating the important journey of Charles V to Bologna to be crowned emperor, accompanied by Pope Clement VII. The meeting was integral in establishing peace in Europe  following decades of conflict in Italy and France, and Nikolaas’ portrayal of it provides interesting insight into the event. Myriad of his works are to be found today in such museums as the MET in NYC and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to name but two, and in chapels in situ and private collections.

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