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Drawing the city

Antwerp, Belgium

Organisation: The Museum Plantin-Moretus

In the sixteenth century, Antwerp developed into an international commercial capital. The city's appearance changed very quickly. Enormous population growth led to the rapid development of the city centre. One crucial change to the urban space was the construction of the Spanish fortifications from 1542. At the same time, the city was extended northwards in order to develop a new district and port area (the Nieuwstad or 'New Town') there. In 1567, a citadel was added to the fortifications, reconfiguring the cityscape once again. Prestigious public and religious buildings were also constructed in the city during the Golden Age.
Using maps and city plans, the exhibition follows the main construction drives and contributions to the city's development. It considers the underlying functions and intended purposes of the maps: to glorify the city and draw attention to its special qualities. The map's orientation can also reinforce the message the mapmaker wishes to convey. Two extraordinary city maps are compared: Antwerp by Vergilius Bononiensis (1565) and the oldest known hand-drawn city map (late 16th century). A computer module assesses the accuracy of the two maps, and investigates to what extent they correspond to the current situation.
The exhibition additionally features historical prints depicting Antwerp during dramatic events such as the destruction of religious images known as the Beeldenstorm (1566) and the Spanish Fury (1576). Artists also provide a detailed picture of the city in peaceful scenes, such as Joyous Entries and ice scenes.
Venue: Museum Plantin-Moretus, Vrijdagmarkt 22, 2000, Antwerp
Telephone: +32 3 221 14 50
Time schedule: Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 - 17.00