Extremely rare panorama of Amsterdam, consisting of two central leaves by Pieter Bast published in 1599, which Claes Jansz. Visscher significantly altered and to which he added two more leaves, thus creating a panorama that in every respect celebrates the importance of Amsterdam (and The Netherlands) as the major trading center of the world.
The profile of Amsterdam seen from the IJ is on four plates.
Pl. II and III extensively reworked states of Pieter Bast’s engraved View of Amsterdam from the north of 1599 (Hollstein I, no. 8; G.S. Keyes Pieter Bast, Alphen aan den Rijn 1981, p.6, no. 8); coats of arms of Holland and Amsterdam on Bast’s plates removed and replaced by figures with trumpets of fame and coats of arms of Holland, Amsterdam and Maurits, Prince of Orange. Foreground figures removed and replaced by figures from all over the world offering products to the patroness of Amsterdam in the centre foreground (pl. II-III); some ships added, their flags changed into the national tricolor.
Montelbaans tower (D), tower of the South Church (K) and Haringpakkers tower (kk) added. Bast’s signature, date and adress removed.
Pl. I and IV etched by Visscher to compliment Bast’s view.
In cartouche upper left of pl. I eight-line Latin dediction: AMPLISSIMIS PRUDENTISSIMISQUE DOMINIS. D.D. CONSULIBUS, SCRABINIS, TOTIQUE SENATUI REIPUB:[ LICAE] AMSTELREDAMENIS, Dominis suis Clementissimus Hanc suam Amstelredami delineationem submisse dedicabat Harmanus Allardi Coster, et Nicolaus Johannis Visscher.
On the bales lower right of pl.I monograms and date: n o HA 1611and n CIV 1
(Visscher’s monogram in reverse)
In cartouche upper right of pl. IV two line Latin Caption: Religio, Merces, Artes, Politica, Themsq.[ue] Amstelodami amplum dilatant nomen in Orbem.
This profile of Amsterdam seen from the IJ has in the middle of the foreground is the Maid of Amsterdam, surrounded by merchants from all corners of the globe offering her their riches. The ‘East Indians’ and Chinese bring precious stones, nutmeg, porcelain and silk. The legend below the image refers to Amsterdam as the ‘trading capital of the entire world’ and recounts how the holds of the city’s ‘floating castles’ (the ships) were laden with cargo from the farthest reaches of the earth.
Claes Jansz Visscher’s ambitious cityscape was probably his introduction as a publisher, albeit under shared risk with Herman Allertsz. Coster. Visscher dared to put in print a new panorama of the city of Amsterdam only five years after the cityscape of Hans Rem and Willem Janz. Blaeu came to light. There was a high demand of city profiles and the young Visscher and just like Blaeu’s print, this was his first large-scale production, and, similarly, it was apparently intended to introduce the new company to the public. For this he used the copper plates of Pieter Bast, who died at a young age. The copper plates were owned by his partner, who had previously foreseen a reissue of Bast’s panorama. The city of Amsterdam had expanded substantially in ten years and changed considerably. The copper plates by Bast has taken Visscher as the basis for a new and much broader city profile, which in turn has become part of an even larger composition, Visscher has enlarged the print of Bast on both sides with an extra copper plate, so that he got extra space to emphasize the widening of the harbor front. Moreover, he has not only filled the new palaces with an extension of the original representation, but the two middle plates which were completely processed in the print of Bast – in etching technique, are barely recognizable. In the profile he has added or renewed various elements. Like Blaeu, he used the lust for an allegorical figuration with angels and coats of arms and cartouces with text. He has actually shifted the allegorical presentation to the forefront. Visscher transformed the vast meadow that took place at Bast to a group of recreational townspeople into a kind of country scene on which an extremely varied allegory unfolded. And the allegory itself has also become more earthly, not with mythological gods and goddesses but with completely normal and existing people. The performance that unfolded here could in theory thus take place on the banks of the Volewijk, where the gallows field was actually located. Even the city maiden in the middle of her garden wears a neat contemporary costume, and her imperial crown rests on a freshly starched Dutch hat. The caption rightly says that this young lady is ‘raised up like a Keyserinne’ (opgepronckt als een Keyserinne’). Its seat rests on piles and is surrounded by a mini-city canal with posts and paving. Numerous exotic figures proved their honor to the Dutch city maiden.
For whom the allegory is not yet clear, the cartouche on the right offers clarification: faith, trade, arts and sciences, administration and law of Amsterdam prepare its name all over the world; the city of Amsterdam has surpassed ancient Greek civilization in its grandeur. The ‘kogge’ ship and the city coat of arms with the legal rod are lifelike models and also the attributes that surround it seem to come straight out of the store: a globe, a few books, a painter’s palette, fine silver and glassware, a music book and the New testament. The same applies to the people and animals from all parts of the world who come to offer them numerous products.
Such prints were taken as a gift on trade missions, it has been noted that in 1612 the Turkish Sultan received ‘6 fine Amsterdammen’ and ‘4 ditto a little worse’. Nevertheless, a sadly small number has been preserved, of the ‘Kleine Visscher’ discussed here only nine have been documented. In 1870, Frederik Muller calls this print ‘very rare’.