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Monday, August 20, 2012

Pendant Views of London from Carel Allard’s Late 17th -Century Compendium of City Views

Carel Allard
Two views of London from Orbis habitabilis oppida et Vestitus, centenario complexa
Each with plate size 83/4” x 11”; framed size 163/8” x 185/8”
Amsterdam: Carel Allard, c.1695



                Carel Allard’s “Orbis habitabilis Oppida et Vestitutus” [“Towns and Costumes of the Inhabited World”] is a singular book, comprised of charming views of cities coupled with somewhat fanciful renderings of figures in local fashions.  The images are excellent in design and execution, and wide-ranging and comprehensive in subject matter.  In many cases a plate of a town is followed by one showing the costume of the inhabitants with the town in the background, as is the case with these two engravings showing London and several figures in typical British costume.  The plates were engraved by Aldert Meyer and Thomas Doesbergh, their work closely supervised by Allard himself.

                Allard is considered to be the first compiler of a townbook to couple the plates this way.  “Orbis habitabilis” included 28 views of European towns (including 4 costumes), 24 Asian towns (including 4 costumes), 24 African towns (including 6 costumes) and 24 American towns (including 8 costumes).  The text for the book was in Latin, written by Ludolph Smids, a Groningen doctor and antiquary who settled in Amsterdam in 1685.  “Orbis habitabilis” was not dated, but must have been produced between 1683 and 1702, when Pieter Schenk published the “Hecatomopolis sive ... oppida nobiliora centum,” which contains copies of some of Allard's plates. 

                Allard was one of the most prominent 17th-century Dutch engravers and publishers of geographical material, including maps and city views.  He was based in Amsterdam during a period when the Dutch reigned supreme in the production of such works.  His work was of the highest quality of engraving, geographical information and decoration, combining beautiful Baroque ornamental motifs and accurate information.

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