Portrait of a City

Over the ages Cracow has lived to see many of its portraits made: the views of the city, many engravings, drawings, paintings and, since the middle of the 19th century, numerous photographs. Both the city and its surroundings due to the interesting architecture and picturesque setting, still constitute attractive objects for artists.

The most magnificent view of the city is, however, the panorama of Cracow published in a work by Braun and Hogenberg: "The Cities of the World" ("Civitates orbis terrarum"). The view is also one of the most excellent pieces in this work, so it is only natural that it has had many reproductions and imitations.

This hand - coloured copperplate, measuring over a metre, apart from its artistic significance, also has a great cognitive value. The work was created from several drafts, which were made from various places chosen in such a way that each was always situated to the North - West of the previously depicted part of the city. Unfortunately, we know neither the name of the author of the drafts nor of the woodcutter.

The cognitive value of the panorama cannot be overestimated, as it shows clearly and accurately the topography of Cracow, its neighbouring towns of Kazimierz and Kleparz, as well as the suburbs and the nearest vicinity. Apart from the buildings, often depicted with great care of architectural detail, it also shows the network of roads, rivers, suburbian fields, gardens and broad pastures, as well as the details of everyday occupations of the inhabitants, such as raftsmen going on their raft down the Vistula River. In the foreground we can see the royal pageant with the king moving from Wawel Castle to his country residence in obzw.

The cognitive value of the view is enriched by the very accurate captions. At the right top corner, we find the legend with the names of ten buildings; the names of fifty one other buildings are mentioned next to them.

There are also the names of the Vistula and Rudawa rivers, of some roads and landscape fragments.

Over the drawing there are six coats of arms. Those of the towns of Kleparz, Cracow and Kazimierz are placed over the respective towns, next to their Latin names (Clepardia, Cracovia, Casimiria), and dominating over Wawel, the royal residence, are (from the left) the Snake of the Sforzas, the Eagle and the Lithuanian "Chase".

It is also worth noticing that the view presents Cracow with gothic - renaissance architecture. We can see the steep, gothic roofs of the churches and decorative renaissance finials - attics; in the contemporary panorama of the city, it is the baroque domes that dominate.


A view of Cracow from the North-West, a copperplate and etching from the years 1603-1605, which appeared in the 6th volume of "Civitates orbis terrarum", a work by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, published in Koln in 1617 (APKr, ref. no Widoki 8. Photo: RM)
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