Ortelius' ArgonauticaSKU: 9663
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The Argonautica illustrates the mythical voyage of Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece. The map shows Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean, with insets of Thessaly, Bithynia and western Europe.
The Fleece hangs at the centre the cartouche, flanked by the fire-breathing Khalkotauroi to whom Jason yoked the plough. It is also guarded by the dragon, which was presumably able to breathe fire at least as well as a brazen bull before Jason had its teeth out.
Abraham Ortelius dedicated his map to the courtier and diplomat Charles of Arenburg, a knight of the order of the Golden Fleece.
Our example was published by Balthasar Moretus at the Plantin Press, in the final edition of the 'Parergon'. This was an atlas of ancient geography and regarded by Ortelius as a "personal work" (Koeman). It was sister volume to the 'Theatrum Orbis Terrarum', published in 1570 and generally considered the first modern atlas of the world.
For his atlas of the world, Ortelius gathered and selected the best available cartographic knowledge and presented it in a single volume, duly credited and finely engraved in a consistent style, with explanatory text. The Theatrum was very decorative and hugely popular amongst the wealthy and educated, running into over forty editions in Latin and the major European languages. But despite this stunning success, it may be that the Parergon was closer to the heart of a man who regarded himself first and foremost as an antiquary.
Ortelius drew original maps for the Parergon. They were subsequently engraved for him by the master engraver Jan Wierix. The results “have to be evaluated as the most outstanding engravings depicting the wide-spread interest in classical geography in the 16th century” (Koeman).
Condition & Materials
Copper engraving, 34.5 x 49 cm, modern hand colour, Latin text on verso.
Koeman, Atlantes Neerlandici, Ort 46. Van den Broecke 226