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Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

I love maps. Ever since Mr. Tew’s 6th-grade class in which he had us draw maps of the world and color and label them, I’ve been fascinated by cartographic representations of the world, especially maps where artistic attention was applied. (I pass over, with a shudder, a practice from the late 1960s onward, by which line-maps are somehow thought to be at all useful or interesting.)

Maps should not just be cold, abstract representations of space and place. After all, they can never just be the ‘objective truth,’ because no map can perfectly convey the full scale, proportions and dimensions of the world it seeks to distill. Interesting maps express passion, interest, and a personality of approach. And it never hurts if they are beautifully made.

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Map of southwest Anatolia, from the Map Room

So I was wonderfully surprised, having nearly finished the tour of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, to encounter the Map Room, where rich lapis lazuli glows bright blue from the oil-painted seas of the world. Perugian(!) native Ignazio Danti was given the commission in 1563 by Giorgio Vasari to paint the doors of the cabinets in this Guardaroba that held the valuables of the Medicis. Danti’s aunt may have studied under Perugino (a painter we are really beginning to appreciate here; there are dozens of his works here in Perugia).

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