A majestic sea chart from the Dutch “Golden Age” probably illuminated by the “Meester Afsetter” Dirk Jansz van Santen
By BLAEU, Willem Jansz, Pieter BLAEU, Johannes, BLAEU, 1674
Pascaarte van alle de Zee-custen van Europa… tot Amsterdam MDCLXXVII, Amsterdam, 1677.
- Author: BLAEU, Willem Jansz, Pieter BLAEU, Johannes, BLAEU
- Publication place: Amsterdam
- Publication date: 1677.
- Physical description: Separately published large engraved chart, printed in two sheets on thick paper, joined, with fine contemporary hand-colour lavishly heightened in gold.
- Dimensions: 692 by 876mm. (27.25 by 34.5 inches).
- Inventory reference: 12208
An exceptional rarity, and a splendid work of art, the Pascaarte of Europe was the work of the grandsons of Willem Jansz. Blaeu, Pieter and Johannes, and one of the last maps to bear the Blaeu imprint as the chart dates from the period following the fire at the Blaeu family’s Gravenstraat premises in Amsterdam in February 1672. A year later Johannes Blaeu I died, and the remaining plate stock was auctioned in 1674 and 1677. The present chart of Europe therefore is one of the few productions from the post-fire period.
The chart is an improved re-engraving of the elder Blaeu’s 1621 (or later) chart with the same title. No census of the 1677 chart has ever been attempted, but Schilder locates only two examples of the c.1621 pascaarte printed on paper, compared to six on vellum.
This is the last in a series of large-scale pascaartes of Europe published from c.1606 by the firm of Blaeu. The charts of 1621 and 1677 extend much further west than the earlier examples, so that they include southern Greenland and the Azores. They also add small compass roses that Cannenberg says “show the magnetic variation on the spot.” The 1677 chart improves on the 1621 by extending the coast of Greenland, and correcting the coasts of Iceland, Ireland and other parts of Europe.
One of the greatest treasures from the Golden Age of Dutch cartography is the 19-volume ‘Atlas van Hadrianus Relandus’ at the Meermanno-Westreenianum Museum in The Hague. Not only does it include many legendary maps and sea charts of the seventeenth century, but, according to Herman de la Fontaine Vervey, “the majestic whole has been coloured leaf by leaf by van Santen with the utmost care, using transparent colours, and with even the tiniest details heightened with gold.” He was referring to Dirk Jansz van Santen, the “Meester Afsetter” (master colourist), whose “name was renowned throughout his lifetime and long thereafter, and for whose work there was great demand.” Dirk Jansz. van Santen “illuminated and gilded the most prestigious printed works of his time in an exceptionally painterly and brilliant manner. In so doing, he made the Golden Age, quite literally, golden” (Goedings). His clients were the foremost collectors of his age, who often described his art in similarly eulogistic terms.
Rarely do maps coloured in van Santen’s hand come up for sale; rarer still are maps offered that can be ascribed to him with certainty, as he did not sign the works that he illuminated. The present example can confidently be attributed to the master,as it is coloured in a manner identical to that used for the chart of Southeast Asia by Hendrick Doncker in the Hadrianus Relandus atlas. A note in the Relandus atlas reads “artifex eximinus Theodorus van Santen,” and when the atlas came up for sale in 1707, the catalog stated that it was “magnificently coloured by Dirk Jansz van Santen, the equal of Blok.” This comparison to Joanna Blok-Koerten was a strong accolade, as she was the seventeenth century Dutch artist most celebrated for fine colouring. Examples from the Relandus atlas of two of the three maps here offered are illustrated in Robert Putnam’s ‘Early Sea Charts’. Both have pale blue oceans, rich colouring in the decorative vignettes, and the lavish use of gold. The colouring is so alike on the two charts that at first we were concerned that they might be the same work, but close inspection revealed such minor differences as the outline color of Japan – on ours it is green; on the Relandus copy it is red — that make it clear that they are in fact different charts coloured by the same hand. Truusje Goedings, author of ‘Dirk Jansz. Van Santen… a Survey’, and acknowledged authority on the works of the master colourist, has examined the present charts and compared them carefully with the maps in the Relandus atlas, and has made the following statement: : “I have examined the two charts at Daniel Crouch Rare Books, and the equivalent charts in the ‘Atlas van Hadrianus Relandus’ at the Meermanno-Westreenianum Museum in The Hague, and I can confidently conclude that these charts were coloured by the same hand”. A copy of her full report on the charts is available on request.
- Burden, P, ‘The Mapping of North America’, I, #233 (state II/III)
- Burden, Philip. (2007). The mapping of North America. Rickmansworth: Raleigh Publications.
- Schilder, G., ‘Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica’, IV, pp.100, 45.1 (first edition, dating 1621 or later) and 114–117, plate 2.53
- Schilder, G. (2003). Monumenta cartographica Neerlandica. Alphen aan den Rijn: Canaletto/Repro-Holland. 8 volumes.