Charting Crusade in Grand Ducal Florence

Sean Roberts - Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar



Once characterised as preoccupied by peninsular – or at most European – political concerns, the Grand Dukes of Tuscany are increasingly understood to have developed their princely personae through renewed commitment to crusading and responding to Ottoman ambitions. With the establishment and continuing patronage of the Knights of Santo Stefano, the dukes sought to project Tuscan (and Medici) power in the contested waters and shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Maps and charts served as an integral component in fashioning this pious identity, providing imaginative visual and material signs of such aspirations.

Created in the port city of Livorno in 1635 by Giovanni Battista Cavallini and emblazoned with the cross of Santo Stefano, the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation’s portolan atlas served as one such powerful token for the Grand Duke Ferdinando II de’ Medici (1610-1670). Drawing on these lavishly decorated charts, archival research in Florence and comparative examples in collections in London and Paris, this paper explores the role of maps and the artisans who produced them in crafting a crusader identity for the grand dukes. Further, through comparison of Medici cartographic projects with their contemporary Ottoman counterparts, the symbolic and ideological resonance of these charts is thrown into sharp relief.



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