Europa Regina

The cartographical personification of Europe as a regal woman is tied to the Hapsburg court and the engraver Johannes Putsch, or, as he latinized his name for humanist readers, Johannes Bucius.  Bucius’ map was reproduced in a  widely popular Cosmographia assembled by Sebastian Munster’s Cosmographia  from its 1570 edition, reprinted below, which provided one of the first–if not the first–personifications of the continent.   The history of the reception of this cartographical form provided a popular image of european identity, even if it originated in the Hapsburg court.  The embodying of Europe was a particularly powerful metaphor to link to a crowned figrue for the Spanish Hapbsburgs, so that they could convert the edges of the Iberian peninsula to a regal tiara or crown, as if to symbolically map the imperial network of an empire whose symbolical center had migrated, if the place of Bohemia as a pendant, and Vienna as a principal city, long remained, and Sicily became an orb, and Rome perhaps an extravagant adornment on her wrist.  Indeed, the adornment of the queen-continent seemed an occasion to map Europe’s abundance.

The repetition of an identical motif of mapping from the first third of the sixteenth century, when it was first engraved as a woodcut, to a more iconic representation of imperial identity constituted an early modern imperial icon of European unity:  “Yurp,” much as Peter Sellars put it in the first days of the EU, emerged as a regal figure, imperial orb in Sicily, head in Spain (Hispania) and Hispanic in character, but heart in Bohemia–and (no doubt to the chagrin of the English), the islands reduced to a flying banner of the scepter that she holds, lending it regal attributes in its dress and crown.  This allegorical personification of the continent is both a protection against otherness, and an image of the imperial identity of the continent.

The map suggests not only a medieval tradition of figurative geography or symbolic mapping, but a deeply allegorical reading of how Ptolemaic cartography used the correspondence of place in a uniformly continuous distribution to fashion a “community” in chorographic maps.  Despite the proliferation of various ‘chorographical’ maps of regions, often nation-states such as France, England, Switzerland, or the Netherlands by the early 16th century, the image of Europe’s imperial identity foregrounded the specific role of each place within that unity–from Iberia at its head to Bohemia at its heart to Italy as the arm holding an imperial orb.  It served as something of a hierarchical relationship of the individual European regions, and something like a memory-emblem to record the relationship within the Holy Roman Empire of varied European states.  As such, it was often re-written–or re-mapped–as a symbol of authority, the primacy alternating between European cities and counties that were centers of imperial residence.

The image is often described as “map-like,” but provides a map, if one less concerned with spatial orientation of its observer or individual reader than the coherence and unity of one specific region in an expanding ecumene.  Johannes Putsch (or Bucius) designed the original map that he entitled “Europa in forma virginis” (in the form of a maiden) have often been argued to represent an embodied leader, such as Charles V’s wife Isabella, whose progeny would unite the region that the Hapsburgs tried to effect the notion of unity with considerable popularity, but dedicated to the brother of Charles V, Ferdinand I, as a sort of allegorical land map of strikingly more schematic nature when compared to later, more life-like images.  This 1537 woodcut of two plates created an early prototype for the mapping of imperial identity, printed in Paris, and includes the elements of crown, scepter and imperial orb, all of which are presented with more detail than the quite schematic linear map, suggesting only a notional image of England or the African continent and coast.


Europe as a Queen--Bucius


The point was less to map terrestrial borders or shorelines with any accuracy than to provide a figuration of European unity that addressed audiences skilled in map-reading, or with reading the distribution of a land-map.

The popularity of its figuration of Europe lead to re-engravings and reproductions, often colored in the form of many manuscript maps–leading to their elaborations within later reproductions, as in this image at the Comenius crypt in Narden, a 17th century mausoleum, that attests to its particular staying power as a representation of Bohemian identity, as much as European unity.


Europa Regina 2


Europe is shown in the map as a continent, opposed to Asia and Africa, as a new rendering of the T-in-O map, now centered not in Jerusalem, however, but based in the forest around Bohemia, stretching from Spain to Hungary, with Greece, Bulgaria, Scythia and Tartar lands at her skirt.  This image is not only far more ‘fleshed out,’ but reveals a clearer image of a landscape map, suggesting that its engraver emulated the Ortelian integration of landscape engraving and cartographical iconography with text:  prominent textual markers indeed distinguish the continent’s (or queen’s) bodily zones, even as the rectitude of the female figuration of the continent is reflected in her grave aspect and imperial regalia.

The essential dynamic of unity within and overcoming sovereign divisions is underscored in this map, which if previously an independent flysheet was re-used within the context of a popular printed book, together with multiple maps of varied provenance that were mostly characterized by their striking pictorial design.  Although broken into colored sectors of national zones, this anthropomorphization of space enobled the image of Europe, staring at Cadiz and the African coast, in ways that eerily prefigure a Europe gazing over an imaginary mountain range.


Eropa Regina


Mountains are a wonderful visual metaphor in the map:  the Pyrenees appear as a regal necklace, rather than a dividing line, decorating the worldly majesty.  After a 1587 reprinting of the image, by Matthias Quad, a cartographer of Köln who would later publish an atlas of Europe, and printed by Jan Bussemaker , now titled simply “Europae descriptio,” leading to another adaptation of the image included in the popular compilation of Münster.

The maping of European unity is often linked, as by Wiebke Franken, to the somewhat more mystical anthropomorphic mapping in 1337 of the relations of the continents of Africa and Europe by the monk Opicino de’ Canistris, who represented Africa by the figure of a monk–perhaps a self-portrait?–gazing with supreme confidence at the figure of Europe as a woman, which he  drafted while at the papal palace in Avignon.  The map suggested a mapping of Christian unity, and indeed perhaps a pictorial representation of the remove of two continental figures from one another–perhaps echoing the church’s remove from Rome.  The map of a supremely regal Hapsburg Europe occupying center-stage and surrounded by oceanic waters focussed attention on the instruments of imperial power–the orb; the crown; the scepter, in an alternative trinity–by mapping the ascendancy of imperial power even in an age of confessional divides.


Filed under Bohemia, chorographic maps, cosmography, Europa Regina, hand-colored maps, Hapsburgs, personifications, royal maps, woodcut maps

7 responses to “Europa Regina

  1. shale brownstein

    Hey this is an inspired Euope, gazing out over an African coastline. She has a leg of Lithuania, ruled just then by Jagiello of Poland.
    The umbilicus below Germany is clearly of interest.

  2. frances starn

    Che bello! sent it on to j sheehan.

    wdn’t you like to do something on my habsburg rose map?

  3. Ruth Noyes

    Greater realism and accuracy in maps, though perhaps consequences of early modern ostensibly veristic methods, were not necessarily identical to the initial motives impelling the use of such methods. The substitution of self-professed methodological truthfulness for purportedly less accurate means of producing images, maps, texts, scientific models, etc., represents the displacement of mediation towards a low mimetic or “realistic” mode, not for increased realism, but to enhance the credibility of motivating ideologies, by grounding them in the language of apparent factuality, in contradistinction to overt use fantasy and figural language, which were no longer ideologically sufficient.

  4. Maryanne Cline Horowitz

    Nice presentation of images! Woodcut by Johannes Putsch is among several possible sources for Queen Europe in influential 1570 title page of Ortelius. A condensed version of article I’m writing on “Exotic Lady Continents” (with some humorous other sources) has just appeared in ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RACE AND RACISM, 2nd edition (Cengage), vol. 2, pp. 140-142. There’s an Ortelius website, as well as a Speed website, at my home page (htttp://

    • Both Ortelius’ frontispiece and the Bucius’ map are interesting uses of the poetic trope of personification, and elide the forms of mapping with the figure of speech described by Erasmus in _De Copia_. The crowned figure of Europe in the frontispiece to the _Theatrum Orbis Terrarum_ of 1570 personified Europe as the ruler of the entire world, however, and sitting above three other continents. The image interestingly placed Europe beside globes in ways that both suggested she was distinguished by the mastery of the cartographic arts and implicitly that cartography contributed to her pre-eminence. The Bucius map does not suggest Europe’s relation to other continents.

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