Poet and ‘World Painter’: Francesco Berlinghieri’s Geographia (1482)

Poet and ‘World Painter’: Francesco Berlinghieri’s Geographia (1482)

By Sean Roberts

Imago Mundi, Vol.62:2 (2010)

Abstract: Although Francesco Berlinghieri’s Geographia (Florence, 1482) is now regarded as representative of a thriving humanist geographic enterprise, modern scholars universally agree that its author had no significant role in the production of its maps. Yet Berlinghieri’s contemporaries regarded the poet as a cosmographer and ‘world painter’ and associated his work so closely with its principal source, Ptolemy, that it was referred to as el tolomeo. From an examination of the Geographia’s text, maps and illuminations, I argue that Berlinghieri, and the artists who worked for him, portrayed the poet as author of both the textual and the cartographical components. This poetic and artistic project served to frame Berlinghieri’s endeavour as one that emulated the achievements of classical geography and conformed to fifteenth-century expectations for the role of the geographer.

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