Maps as Art: Using Digital Media to Bring Art & Cartography to Life

Class Year


Document Type

Digital Project

Date of Creation

Summer 2016

Department 1



Although we currently live in a world in which maps serve the sole purpose of displaying information as quickly and accurately as possible, Dutch maps in the seventeenth century instead served as an artistic display of wealth, intellect, and cultural capital. Dutch mapmakers would employ designers, engravers, and artists to create products that were, first and foremost, aesthetically pleasing. These maps would be hand painted, bound in personally embroidered atlases, and preserved in gold display cases. The study of antique maps through an art historical lens has grown increasingly over the last few decades, as the question, “What is art?” has led scholars to rightfully include decorative and ornate maps. With funding from the Mellon Summer Scholars Program, I worked with such a map in Gettysburg College’s Special Collections, a 1643 print of a 1606 world map that was created by Willem Janszoon Blaeu. Blaeu was a major mapmaker during the Dutch Golden Age of Cartography. The map features a frame of twenty-two cartouches personifying the four seasons, the four elements, and planetary figures, as well as displaying the ancient wonders of the world. My research uncovered direct visual and iconographic influences for these cartouches by the famous printmakers Hendrick Goltzius and Maarten van Heemskerck, Renaissance artist Baccio Baldini, and famous works of art like "Sleeping Venus", and the "Apollo Belvedere". To display my research results, I created my own website showcasing an interactive Storymap for the Blaeu map.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License