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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rare Map Offering of the Day: " Isola d. Sardegna." Joan Oliva (1570-1614)

Joan Oliva (fl. 1570-1614)
Isola d. Sardegna
Illuminated manuscript portolan chart on vellum heightened in gold
20 5/8" x 27 7/8" (522mm x 707mm)
[Marseilles: ca. 1600]

Portolan charts are the predecessors of the modern navigational chart and appeared in the Mediterranean world during the thirteenth century. Their exact place of origin is disputed but the most important early centers were Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Italy.  The need for reliable navigational aids, particularly of the waters around Italy, became more pressing as trade increased between Venice and other Mediterranean ports.

Joan [Johannes or Juan] Oliva was a member of a large family of Catalan hydrographers, who for over a century dominated portolan making in the western Mediterranean.  Charts signed by no less than sixteen different members of the Oliva family are recorded between 1538 and 1673, from Majorca, Messina, Naples, Leghorn, Florence, Venice, Malta, Palermo and Marseilles.

Joan appears to have been the most prolific and highly regarded of this famous family.  The earliest of his charts originate from Messina but he is also recorded as living in Naples and Marseilles where he is thought to have died.  His known works are apparently scarse and in A. E. Nordenskiold’s Periplus (Stockholm: 1897) he was only able to find 3 atlases recorded in a private collection in Majorca and a further atlas in the British Library (Egerton MS).  He believed that ten more individual charts are existed.  This particular example was most probably bound in a very large portolan atlas and is in exceptional condition.

The chart shows the Spanish possession of Sardinia.  The island became a territory of Jaume II of Aragon in 1323 and reverted to the Spanish Crown after the unification of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella in 1479.  The coastline is drawn in blue with some smaller islands shown in red.  Rivers are marked as blue and highlighted in white.  Towns are represented by idealized buildings and labeled in brown ink.  Principal towns are written in red calligraphy and also bear flags decorated with gold leaf.  The interior of the island is also adorned with symbolized mountain features.  The whole chart is decorated with rhumb-lines  and set within in a gilded border.  The rhumb-lines meet at a central rhumb-point, the elaborate compass rose, which orients the portolan to the east with north to the left.  At the left margin is drawn an elaborately embellished scale bar.  The title, Isola d. Sardegna, is set in a banner at the upper edge of the chart and beside it is the coat of arms of Spain (previously of Aragon before the unification of Spain), decorated in red and gold leaf.

Offered at $135,000.

Arader Galleries intends to have the lowest prices on ABE, Alibris, Biblio, AE, and Artnet while maintaining the highest levels of quality in the business for every offering. To inquire or view the complete offering, please contact our curators at info@aradernyc.com or call our 72nd Street NYC gallery at (212) 628-3668. 


Please do not hesitate to direct all comments, questions, and inquiries to grahamarader@gmail.com

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