This evocative burin etching provides a bird’s-eye-view of the Italian city of Florence (Fiorenza). It was compiled by Donato Bertelli of the Lafreri School of cartography and was issued in Venice circa 1569. As such, it constitutes a Late Renaissance representation of a city that, more than any other, embodied this decisive period in human history.
At the top of the view, the title “FIORENZA” is engraved in large characters, split in the middle by the city’s heraldry. The title is divided by a decorative vignette consisting of two winged women sitting on clouds and holding between them Il Giglio Fiorentino: Florence’s fleur-de-lys-based coat of arms that was adopted by the Guelphs in 1251. Some attribute this specific composition of Fiorentine heraldry to Paolo Forlani. However, although he uses a similar design, Bertelli’s engraving style differs significantly from Forlani’s more elegant and refined approach.
Along the left margin is a numerical legend listing sixty notable places and monuments within the city. As a testament to the early phase of urban cartography that this view was made in, the sites listed in the legend do not have corresponding numbers in the view itself. The legend is quite up-to-date in that it includes the Corridore (54), which refers to the recently completed Vasari Corridor (Corridoio Vasariano): an elevated and enclosed passageway built in 1565, which connects Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti. Despite the reference in the legend, the corridor is not actually depicted in the image. Both the composition and its perspective are based on Francesco Rosselli’s woodcut from the 1480s.
Ultimately, Bertelli’s view stands among the most celebrated due to its period-specific appearance, which captures this Renaissance hub’s iconic features and picturesque qualities on the Arno River.