06 December 2013

Waves, ruins, and the city

My correspondent, Pavlos Plessas, sent me a new image of Nauplion this week, quite the nicest I have ever seen. It is a panorama of the Morosini-led assault on the Ottoman-held city in 1686, done in glorious color by the Dutch engraver Romeyn de Hooghe.  I cannot find out the size of the print, but it must be quite large, because this image will enlarge to show amazing detail. 

Several details particularly interest me.  The first, the image of water above, is done in a style that suggests that de Hooghe was well-acquainted with the tradition of Japanese prints.  There is nothing like this in the work of two other Dutch engravers on the same subject, or in any of the Venetian engravers who indicated their water rather as it is indicated in the bay south of Nauplion, at the top of this print.  There is a striking difference in technique between the two parts of the bay.

The second detail is this suggestion of ruins near the coast, north of Nauplion.  (Images of Nauplion, like images of Candia, almost always show the city with north at the bottom.) I have been wondering if one of de Hooghe's sources noted the walls of Tiryns.  If so, this is the first pre-Independence image of Tiryns I have ever seen.  But then, ruins crop up in other areas of the engraving.  Do look at the large version of this panorama and pay attention to the beauty of de Hooghe's trees.

The next detail is this tower and wall at the north of the Bay of Argos, at the bottom of the panorama.  I wrote about the tower, and its neighboring frogs, more than four years ago.  This wall was, for some years, the indication of the boundary between Venetian territory and the Despotate, and then Ottoman territory.  The tower, in the last century, has several times been erroneously identified as a mill, because it is in the area of The Mills, and because identifiers took the double wall for a mill race. The Germans put an anti-aircraft gun between it and the water.

Finally, de Hooghe is the first to show a distinct plateia, and a fountain, although many engravers show a large open space in this area of Nauplion.  But more important is what I am seeing, just behind that line of houses and in front of the wall, as a church and a walled garden.  I believe this is, somewhat relocated and turned 90 degrees, the Franciscan convent -- now the Panagia, and I have long been sure the area was enclosed because of the eccentricity of the streets in the immediate vicinity.  If you are familiar with Nauplion, you will know the Venetian arsenal at the west end of the plateia. The street behind the arsenal is exceptionally narrow, and since that street was the beginning of what was apparently intended to be a grand approach leading to Akro-Nauplion from the harbor, it must have been so because there was no possibility for broadening the other side of the street because of the convent wall.    

I will stop commenting here.  Go back to the large image and rejoice in the extraordinary colors.


  1. Dear Ms/Mrs Diana Gilliland Wright, I must say yours is one of my favorite blogs that i stumble upon by a random image google search of my own uploaded image of the lion(!). After having studied and wandered in nafplio for 5 years, taken an interest in maps and psychogeography, among my theatre studies at the local department of arts, I really find myself astonished by the creativity, the research and the taste you have shared online! Great work on the site too, down to every obscure little detail.
    WIll Keep Reading Enchanted, S

  2. Thank you so much for writing. It's very good to have someone who is familiar with Nauplion.

  3. Presumably the item does not have the associated key to the numbers?

    1. If you click on the first link above, to the catalog page, you can search on the map title & get an account of the war in Dutch & a singularly uninformative key to the map.

    2. Many thanks!

  4. The coloured etching in question is part of a large collection of historical and geographical prints called «Atlas Van der Hagen», in the Royal Library (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) in The Hague, Netherlands (bound in 4 volumes, shelfmark 1049 B 10-13; it is no 97 of vol. 3). It forms the upper half of a broadsheet, and measures 30,5x39,5cm. Under the etching are three columns of text, containing (1) a description and history of the town of Napoli di Romania, (2) its conquest by Morosini in 1686, and (3) an explanation of the numbers in the print indicating places and events. All in Dutch, I am afraid. See:

    1. I see that the links in my previous comment did not show as intended. In case of problems, go to:
      click "Geheugen van Nederland"
      enter in the search box:
      napoli di romania
      and there you are

  5. Thank you so much for this information.


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