1581 Bünting - Europa Prima Pars Terrae Forma Virginis [Europe as a Queen]
Bünting's famous depiction of Europe as a Queen
Europa Prima Pars Terrae Forma Virginis.
Magdeburg, ca. 1581
23.4 x 34.5 cm (9.2 x 13.6 in)
This gorgeous map depicts Europe in the form of a queen with select cities, river, and mountain ranges. Labels are executed in letterpress that is mostly oriented north; the map is oriented west.
Meurer outlines the basic geography:
The crowned head represents the Iberian Peninsula; the right ear is Aragon and the left ear Navarra.
France is the upper chest.
The Alps and the river Rhine are two necklaces. On the Rhine is hanging a chain with a great golden coin or jewel representing the mountain ring of Bohemia.
Germany is the heart of Europe.
Italy forms the right arm, the imperial orb in the right hand is Sicily.
The left arm, which clutches a scepter, is Denmark.
Along the lower border of the queen’s skirt are arranged Greece with the Peloponnesus (on her right) and the Baltic lands up to Muscovy (on her left).
Constantinopel and Prussia are said to represent the two feet.
The river Danube and the “Albanian mountains” (the Balkans) are two long precious chains hanging from the queen’s belt.
Representations of Europa Regina are among the most sought-after anthropomorphic maps available to collectors. The conceptualization of Europe as a female figure is an antique myth that comes from many sources and in many versions, but its origins are most famously associated with the Phoenician princess Europa in Ovid's Metamorphoses. In the poem, Zeus lusts after Europe, transforming himself into a white bull and abducting her. He takes her to Crete, where she becomes the island's first queen and gives birth the king Minos.
The symbolism and use of the myth of Europa Regina changed over time, eventually linked to the struggle between the Christian Occident and Muslim Orient. The first known cartographic expressions of Europe as a Queen in map form date to the 16th century, when the House of Habsburg was engaged in conflict with the Ottoman Empire; Charles of Habsburg, who during his life time was crowned King of Spain, King of Germany, and Holy Roman Emperor, personally led a campaign to recapture Tunis in 1535. Two years later, the first printed anthropomorphic map was published in Paris, the work of the Tyrolean poet and courtier, Johannes Putsch.
Verso text: blank.
Strong, dark impression. Short left margin. Paper slightly age toned and slightly spotted. Paper thinness along center fold. Reinforced margin at lower part center fold.
Peter Meurer, "Europa Regina. 16th century maps of Europe in the form of a queen", Belgeo, 3-4 | 2008, 355-370.