Michael A. Vuksta
London: A Portrait
Nothing better illustrates than prose description the extent to which TudorStuart London was a place of the imagination. . . . It would not be going too far to say that Tudor-Stuart descriptions of London reveal that a major corollary of the Renaissance discovery of man was the discovery of the city.
London in the Age of Shakespeare
Yet despite diversity of physical expression all maps are basically
of a set of
. A map’s essential elements are few. Almost without exception maps communicate information about
. Locations and their connections have
that may be the quantity or quality of certain variables, or their change over time. These variables may be objective or measurable,. . . (or) subjective, such as personal interpretations of scenic appeal.
Southworth and Southworth
It is a long way from the center of the world to London (with a detour via Rome), but the selection of this map of a British monk allows for the addition of two different examples for the categories mentioned above, (i.e., the analysis of graphic elements andtheir culturalexpressive function). While the graphic themselves are barely different, they are utilized for an entirely new function, as a guide to the traveler. The religious function has not been completely lost in this “map”. Phillipa Glanville notes that, “the itinerary was prepared to illustrate (Matthew) Paris’s account of the papal offer offer of the Sicilian crown to Richard of Cornwall in 1252.”
The “cross” of the original ideogram has become the structuring element, it has been divided from its crossmember and elongated into a single path of communication. Another convention of the road map is introduced in this view with the “distance between stoppingplaces” indicated. This distance is spatiotemporal, described as “a comfortable day’s travelling.” The “thumbnail sketch” of the city of London clearly identifies specific buildings. As early as 1252, St. Paul’s, The Tower, and the Thames are on the route to becoming emblematic of the entire city.
The circle element of the original hieroglyph survives as an elevated section of the city wall with individual stones articulated to stress built form. (Slide #11.)
John Ogilby’s map of the road from London to St. Alban’s is included here to demonstrate the persistence of certain mapping conventions over a long period of time. Distance in miles has replaced the spatiotemporal “day’s journey” in this map of 1675. Other graphic means of representation remain varied with bridges appearing in plan, landscape features are indicated in elevation, while buildings are displayed in an oblique rudimentary perspectival manner. Religious buildings are utilized to represent whole towns. The city of London emerges from the Thames as an emanation of dense built form blackening the lower part of the left panel. Since all of these representations remain inconsistent and abstract, it is not surprising to find directional compasses on all three of the panels to strengthen the map’s most practical function. Without them it would be an uncertain guide for travel. (Slide # 12.)
One may have anticipated the activity designed for this part of the unit. Students can create a variety of itinerary maps from one location to another: from home to school; or from home to a relative’s or friend’s house. As in the previous activity, a list of specific geographic and architectural features should be observed and, if possible, investigated for their functions. Copies of existing New Haven maps may be used to aid the student. They can be traced from, cut out and pasted together to show a straight line of travel. Other features, such as personal or local names for places can be written in or symbols for them drawn in. Photographs from newspapers and magazines can be added.
When dealing with a quattrocento city, the verbal material was used as a gloss on the visual, and the visual material was accepted as a gloss on the verbal, as well as an independent bearer of meaning. . .
Carroll William Westfall
In This Most Perfect Paradise
The first printed view of London is not a picture of anything in reality. The de Worde woodcut of 1497 operates in very much the same way as the hieroglyph. This abstract image is symbolic for the city; in fact, in the text in which it appeared this same view was used to represent other cities. The difference from the original ideogram is that the inscribed image is no longer viewed in plan as if from directly above the city. This symbol is drawn from an elevation of built form within the enclosing wall. It is as if the surface of the city was tilted upward to create a new template ready to receive new and different symbolic content.
The significance of built form as a major feature for representing the city can no longer be ignored. However, the buildings in this symbol are more representative of Medieval Gothic architecture than with buildings which have come to be recognized as Renaissance architecture. In fact, London had
classically inspired buildings until about 1619. What is important to understand is that whatever emerges as the “Renaissance City” will do so in the context of the Middle Age precedent, not in a clear plain of Renaissance humanist expansiveness. Contrary to what might be expected of a view of a Renaissance city, the pictorial space is not optically correct. The view in the de Worde woodcut is more of a combination of views. Buildings are viewed from above and below at the same time. The overall effect is one of walking in the city with our heads turning in different directions. The city is almost tactilely perceived as protruding sculptural volume. The eye is both contained by the walls and planes of the buildings and elevated by the rising towers of palace and cathedral. Although which specific types of buildings are towered and spired remains anonymous. (Slide #13.)
Ten Favorite Buildings
Having discovered that buildings are capable of symbolizing the city students can select their favorite buildings either in their neighborhood or in downtown New Haven. They can draw or photograph them separately then arrange them together in a single collage or composite view of built form that is emblematic of the city or neighborhood.
The town itself stretches from East to West and is three miles in circumference. However, its suburbs are so large that they greatly increase its circuit. . . .Throughout the town are to be seen many workshops of craftsmen in all sorts of mechanical arts, to such an extent that there is hardly a street that is not graced by some shop or the like. This makes the town exceedingly prosperous and wellstocked, as well as having the immediate effect of adding to its splendour.
(Andreas Franciscus, 1497)
from Lawrence Manley, ed.
London in the Age of Shakespeare
In eighty years, what was unavailable to the printer of 1497 becomes commonplace to the sixteenth century mapmakers’ image of London. The composite planview of London from Braun and Hogenberg’s
Civitates Orbis Terrarum
of 1572 provides us with an image that corresponds to that of Franciscus’s text. The wall, such a prominent and persistent feature in all the previous representations of London, is barely visible amid the sprawling ganglia of roads. Built form is reduced in scale and of a primitive oblique perspectival nature. Specific buildings, though minute, have garnished recognizable visual detail. The river has emerged as a prominent feature in the representation of London; it cuts a broad horizontal swath across the center of themap. The articulation of the landscape outside the city is rudimentary, although some attention appears to be given to the shadows cast by these objects. This connection of city with the countryside is a new feature in the representation of London.
With the reduction in significance of built form, new graphic elements which bear symbolic importance are introduced into the planview. The coat of arms of the city of London, a red cross with a sword in a field of white, and the coat of arms of England appear in the upper portion of the picture. Along the bottom and in the center of the map there are four stylishly dressed human figures strolling on a hillside outside the city proper. Their placement in the foreground provides the viewer’s eyes with a welcoming gesture by which he may enter the frame. Judging from the numerous boats and ships sailing on the Thames, one can speculate that these hillside strollers share in the growth and prosperity arising from the importance of the port of London. As if not to be ignored in this display of human growth and expansion, the “signatures” of the guild artists who prepared this copperplate print is ornately framed in illusory metal brackets in the lower right hand corner of the view. In the left corner, similarly framed, is an explanation of the view and a description of the city.
These new graphic elements provide a picture of a particular place, not a mere collection of emblematic buildings. Although some of these elements continue to bear symbolic content, the print is more of a description of the city of London. As if to emphasize the changing role of the mapmaker’s craft, the print was accompanied by a prose description which supplemented the image with imiportant quantitative information about the city’s location, a brief summary of its origin, and a description of its method of government. (Slide #14.)
John Norden’s planview of 1593 employs similar representational conventions as the Braun and Hogenberg print. A significant feature is the display of the coats of arms of the twelve most important guilds of the city of London. They are arranged to form the border on the left and the right of the map. Not since theological imagery dominated medieval diagrams and maps has there been a graphic element which bears such overt social and political significance. Along the lower edge the border is made up of a numbered legend identifying particular places and streets in the map. A final addition to this planview is the scale bar with proportional divider. This allusion to the surveyor’s craft confirms the increasing desire for accurate quantitative information. However, this reference to scientific accuracy must not be overemphasized. One contemporary scholar has warned that, “The details of the map cannot be trusted.”
Personal Coats of Arms
Students can create their own coats of arms, or even design one for the school or some other group to which they belong.
Transition: A Bird’s Eye View
London, the epitome or breviary of all Britain, the seat of the British Empire, and the king of England’s chamber, . . . the most mild merchant, as one would say, of all things that the world doth yield;. . .able to entertain the greatest ships that be, . . .
It is adorned everywhere with churches, that religion and godliness seem to have made a choice of their residence herein.
(William Camden, 1586/1610)
from Lawrence Manley, ed.
London in the Age of Shakespeare
It is not without purpose that I have joined this description, filled with superlatives, with a view of London by the Rouge Dragon in the College of Heralds, William Smith. Perhap, it is not coincidental that Smith, being a specialist in coats of arms, has recorded his view from a vantage point in Southwark. This viewpoint will bear almost emblematic power in the views of London in the next section of this study. Future views and panoramas will claim this same vista.
Smith has slightly tilted the plane of the city of London which appears above the river. Tilting upward and toward the viewer, the elevations of buildings once more becomes descriptive of the city. Unlike the buildings which appear in the de Worde woodcut of 1497, Smith’s buildings are indentifiable with real buildings. Important buildings are larger in scale and show identifable details, while others are uniform and anonymous. Except for those streets which are visible in the Southwark, all others seem to have vanished. Smith’s view seems to have combined the emblematic built form of the de Worde print and the mapping information of Norden to arrive at this most symbolic view. As if to substantiate this point, the coats of arms float freely and prominently in a clear and empty plane of sky, rather than superimposed in the land mass. (Slide #16.)
Linear perspective has always been credited with establishing a new standard of ‘realism’ in picture making, but its effects upon the seeing process itself have not been sufficiently emphasized. I think it is possible to show not only that the advent of linear perspective was important to art, but also important to the way people began to ‘structure’ the physical world in the mind’s eye.
Samuel Y. Edgerton , Jr.
“Florentine interest in Ptolemaic
Cartography. . .”,
, Vol. XXXIII
I have reserved the discussion of the particular importance of linear perspective for another section of the curriculum.* I would just make mention here that it becomes the major means of graphic display for the imagemakers of the city. However, it is still only one of the graphic means used in representing a city. While the built form of the city has become adjusted to an optically corrected mathematical perspective, other forms of graphic expression are super imposed on this image. Words are still inscribed on the surface of the prints and on the surfaces within the pictorial space itself.
*See list of topics at the back of this essay.
, which approaches an optically correct view (except for the fact that it is as if it were viewed from a wide angle lens), is still very much a composite picture with mapping still playing a significant role in the representation. Two planar maps are inset into the land mass at Southwark. One is framed and seperated from the rest of the view, but the other one calls the viewer’s attention to the inscribed surface by peeling a portion of it away to reveal a detail of Westminster. The cartouche with inscription at the center of the lower portion of the picture floats in the air between the viewer’s eyes and the Southwark bank. The coats of arms appear in a more elaborate display, combining ornament and atmosphere. If this cluster of images, words, frames, and figures is not blurred enough, a border of men and horses spans the entire width of the picture below the view. The Cavalcade of the Lord Mayor’s Show has replaced the anonymous figures of Braun and Hogenberg and the collective symbols of the guilds as the bearer of sociocultural meaning. This is a London of time and place. The parade marks a specific event and the prosperous city and port appears on the curved horizon, as if sitting on top of the world. (Slide #17.)
In the final three views of Visscher, Merian, and Hollar the twodimensional grid of the map has been completely tilted up into a window of perspectival space. As the viewpoint descends from the previously high point of Norden, the horizon gets lower and longer, achieving a skylinelike impression. The Thames takes up increasingly more space until in Hollar’s panorama it is the visual element by which the viewer enters, lingers, and leaves the frame. The sky has also become increasingly prominent and displays greater indications of atmosphere. Yet, it remains an ethereal space, becoming the locus for cartouches, poetry, the familiar coat of arms, cherubs and other mythical figures.
The city has become a visual attraction and a paramount subject for the artist’s display of virtuosity and vision. He casts his “realistic” perspective view from a point high in that ethereal and poetic space, having rid himself of the walls that divided eye and brain and hand. Gone is the containing walls of the city. The eye has opened to a broad and sweeping vision. The artist has set him/herself on a road of certain vision crossed, as it were, with an equally uncertain purpose. The abstract collective symbol has become transformed into the “natural” individual ideal. (Slides #18, 19, & 20.)