This is one of the oldest known panoramic cityscapes. We are looking at a section of Antwerp: the mooring-places for the ships, the shipyard with its crane, the towers, the ramparts along the Scheldt, the main secular and religious buildings... Everything is realistically depicted, and locations are identified.
1515 or 1521?
When was this woodcut made? It is dated 1515, but there are some puzzles... The tower of the Church of Our Lady was not ‘volmaect’ (‘completed’) until 1521, but it is already there on the print, which is why a date of 1521 has been suggested for it. The two Venetian galleys are also problematic, as shipping was suspended between Venice and Antwerp from 1508 to 1518...
‘Antwerp: the merchants’ emporium,’ says the Latin text on the banderole near the Church of Our Lady. This print was clearly intended to highlight the city’s economic importance. The presence of Mercury (left), the Roman god of trade, and of Vertumnus, the god of the seasons and abundance (right), confirms this.