An Italian in the Low Countries
Vrijdagmarkt 22-23, Antwerp
03/12/2021 – 06/03/2022
Lodovico Guicciardini was born just over 500 years ago: on August 19, 1521 in Florence. At the age of 20 he arrives in Antwerp and he will not leave anymore. Initially he came here for the family business. It goes bankrupt and afterwards he becomes a full-time writer: “I can earn more as a writer than as a merchant.” He becomes famous, but dies a poor man in 1589 and is buried in the Antwerp cathedral.
Guicciardini is about the same age as Christoffel Plantin (+/- 1520 – 1589) and Plantin will also publish the second and third edition of the book ‘Descrittione … di tutti i Paesi Bassi …’. Enough reason to set up an interesting exhibition around this bestseller and the person Guicciardini.
Description of the Low Countries
You can already discover a few copies of the book in the first rooms of the museum. In room 2 a first edition is open on a map of Antwerp. That edition was published by Willem Silvius in 1567. The map does not show a citadel in the south of the city, because it was only built between 1567 and 1572. In the next room you will also find later editions (by Plantin).
If I have fully described Antwerp, it is no longer necessary to devote extensive attention to the other cities.
This exhibition contains some masterpieces. For example, in the first room of the exhibition (entrance next to the old shop) there is a map of Mercator. This is the only preserved copy. It is not complete, some pieces are still left blank. Because of these gaps, it is believed to be a test or proof print.
Map by Bononiensis
Another masterpiece hangs in the second room: the map of Antwerp by Virgilius Bononiensis. The designer is also from Italy, from Bologna and he made the largest map of the city we know so far. The map has been restored for this exhibition. Enjoy it, because after the exhibition it will disappear for a while in the depot.
Life in Antwerp
In the next room, the merchants and trade are the central theme. Guicciardini was a merchant himself so he had first hand information.
Since Antwerp residents generally have a fine nose for profitable business, they do not only invest in trading companies, but also spend a lot of money on the purchase of land and houses, and on improving their social standing.
Discover the mores and customs in the penultimate room. Guicciardini looks at everything through his ‘Italian’ glasses and tells about the big parties in the Netherlands and the clothing choice of the ladies (which he doesn’t always appreciate). Nice detail here is the ‘portefraes’ to shape millstone collars.
In the last room you can indicate what strikes you in Antwerp. Be sure to read the reactions (in Dutch) on the wall and compare them with the 16th century texts by Guicciardini: you will find many similarities…
Guided Tour and digital walk
You will also see me there as a guide or to come and have a look again at all the book splendor. If you want a tour, you can always mention my name when booking.
Do you want to reminisce after the exhibition? This can be done via the walk I made for the museum in the Erfgoedapp. It is only in Dutch! You will find the walk ‘Dwars door ‘t stad met Mohamed en Guicciardini’ on this site.
An Italian in the Low Countries