[NOLIN, Jean-Baptiste (1657-1725)] and Jean-Baptiste NOLIN II (1686-1762)
L'Europe Dressée Sur les Nouvelles observations faites en toutes les parties de la Terre Rectifiée
Paris: Chez le fils de l'auteur Rue St.Jacques a lenseigne de la Place des Victoires, 1740. Copper-engraved wall map, with original outline colour, backed onto old linen, with contemporary wooden rollers, overall in very good condition. Sheet size: 49 x 55 inches.
A rare and monumental wall map of Europe by one of the great masters of French cartography.
Jean-Baptiste Nolin was one of the most accomplished and certainly the most ambitious French cartographer of his era. He founded what ultimately became a family empire in Paris in the 1680s. Exceptionally, he managed to marry superlative decorative ornamentation with the serious objective of producing maps that reflected the most advanced rendering of geographical detail. The artistic élan of his compositions evinced a style that preserved the rhetorical ambitions of the Baroque ethic, while anticipating the playful elegance of the Rococo period. His masterpieces, many like the present wall map, were monumental in scale and represented Nolin's desire to overwhelm his competition in what was a very challenging market. Highly controversial, Nolin occasionally described himself as "the Engraver to the King," an appointment of which the royal court was curiously never apprised. In his endeavour to include the very latest geographical details on his maps, he seldom hesitated to acquire information from his eminent contemporaries, most notably Guillaume De L'Isle and Vincenzo Maria Coronelli, Jean-Dominique Cassini and the Sieur de Tillemon. At times these rivals were not appreciative of Nolin's adoption of their intellectual property, and De L'Isle successfully sued Nolin for plagiarism in 1705. However, the larger-than-life Nolin always seemed to transcend these challenges, leaving a thriving enterprise to be taken up by his son.
The present map was created in 1740 by Jean-Baptiste Nolin II, largely based on earlier maps produced by his father. It is a highly detailed and refined image of Europe, which was then in the process of intensifying its imperialistic grip over the other continents.
This map is an artistically virtuous composition on a monumental scale, the image being surrounded by thirty vignettes, each framed in individualised Baroque borders, that depict various events from European history, along with textual narratives. The greatest decorative flourish of the composition is surely the title cartouche, located in the upper-left of the main image. Exquisitely engraved classical gods and allegorical personifications border the construction. Iconologically, they are meant to imbue Europe with the various strengths and virtues that they represent. For instance, Mercury, the messenger god of travel, trade and theft, is present to protect and speed European ships as they sail the seas on global missions of conquest and commerce.
This wall map is one of the greatest subjects of the Nolins' legacy, not only being a masterful work of art and a fascinating image that tests the very limits of European geographical knowledge, but a vivid record of a dramatic transitional period in the history of cartography, and of society in general.