Riding the wave


The 17th century

Among the seventeenth-century manuscript atlases there are the Atlas of the Mediterranean by Charlat Ambrosin and the chart by François Ollive, both cartographers in Marseilles.

The first atlas, signed and dated, consists of five sheets, the last of which bearing the signature "A Marseille, par Charlat Ambrosin, l'an 1620.It is dedicated to Louis XIII, whose monogram - LDB for Louis de Bourbon - appears on the frames of each sheet, interposed with the fleur-de-lis.

The fourth sheet represents Sicily, the Maltese Islands, the southern tip of Sardinia and Calabria and part of the Tunisian coast. While making extensive use of bright colors, the atlas is designed with a delicate hand that gives it a particularly harmonious elegance.

Sicily is obviously well known to the cartographer, who describes the interior with plenty of rivers and villages, representing also the Etna in activity, which is here called Monte Albano.

An insert to the top of the chart includes the ports most visited by ships en route to the East, namely Palermo, Messina, Trapani and Malta.

The Mediterranean Atlas by Charlat Ambrosin consists of five sheets of which the last bears the signature "A Marseille par Charlat Ambrosin, l'an 1620." The fourth sheet represents Sicily, the Maltese Islands, the southern tip of Sardinia and Calabria and part of the coast of Tunisia
(Paris, (new window)"> Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Cartes et Plans, Res. Ge DD 2018)

The second manuscript is by a member of a great family of cartographers, operating throughout Europe, i.e., François Ollive - a predecessor of the omonimous Ollive active in Messina at the end of the sixteenth century - who produced charts of considerable vivacity of colors and richness of decorative images.

The name "Ollive" changes to "Oliva" or "Olive", depending on the country where the different cartographers of the same family worked, probably because they adapted the spelling of their name to the local language. Originally, the family belonged to the circle of the Jewish cartographers of Majorca, where there was a thriving tradition since the fourteenth century map (see Catalan Atlas). In the fifteenth century they migrated to Sicily, and in particular to Messina, which in turn became a very active charting center until the seventeenth century, but they are also found in Marseille and in other Italian regions.

François Ollive. The title - "CARTE DE LA MER MEDITERRANEE PARTICULIÈRE FAICTE PAR MOY FRANCOIS OLLIVE A MARSEILLE 1662" - is set in a fanciful cartouche supported by two sea gods, and is decorated with lion heads, while Jesus is sitting in a corner of Jerusalem
(Paris, (new window)"> Bibliothèque French National S.H. Archives No. 43)
The works here represented were published in Les Portulans: cartes marines du XIIIe siècle / par Monique La Roncière et Michel Mollat du Jourdin, Fribourg, Office du Livre, 1984. The book, accompanied by excellent reproductions of the cartographic belongings of the National Library of France, is accompanied by large comprehensive analytical comments.
Paola Presciuttini, 2002