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Jan Van Eyck's Lost Mappamundi-a Token of Fifteenth-Century Power Politics

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

According to Bartholomco Fazio, humanist and secretary to King Alfonso I of Naples, Jan van Eyck painted a mappamundi for Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. The passage regarding this map appears in De viris illustribus, a eulogy of great men of the fifteenth century, and furnishes the only record of this work. The brevity and ambiguity of Fazio's description have prompted scholars to debate the appearance, location, function, and even the authorship of the elusive map. In this article I not only revisit these problems, refuting previous conjectures, but seek to go further in order to gain a wider view of this lost work by a renowned master at the nexus of cartography, diplomacy, commerce, religion, and learning that linked fifteenth-centuty Europe into a community of shared tastes, interests, and concerns-perspectives from which it has not been addressed.

Affiliations: 1: The Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute Harvard University


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