Jan Ziarnko (1575-1630), Ville Citte Universite de Paris, published by Anthonie de Vuauconsains, Paris, 1616, 67 x 78 cm, Maps CC.5.a.500.

The printed map as a tool of political struggle: Paris is well worth a… map

Małgorzata Biłozór-Salwa explores how maps were used as political tools by successive French rulers: re-issued and re-worked to include royal portraits emphasising their symbolic control over the capital city.

In 1589 the throne of France passed to the Protestant King of Navarre Henry III (1553–1610). He was crowned in Chartres Cathedral and entered Paris as Henry IV, the first Bourbon King of France, only after converting to Roman Catholicism in 1594. He is believed to have said the famous words 'Paris vaut bien une masse' (Paris is well worth a mass).[1] As Henry IV, he tried to reunify the kingdom that was torn by religious war. With the support of the famous Minister Sully (Maximilien de Béthun) the King rebuilt Paris and turned it into a modern, thriving capital city. Before his unexpected death – he was assassinated in 1610 by the fanatical Catholic François Ravaillac – numerous infrastructure projects such as new roads, canals, bridges and fortifications had been completed.

Although the fabrication of Louis XIV as Le roi Soleil is usually interpreted as the most elaborate enterprise as far as creating a public image of the ruler is concerned, one must not ignore his predecessor’s achievements.[2] Henry IV was one of the first French kings to be aware of the political and persuasive power of printed media and of printed images in particular. In 1594 he ordered that all images related to the Holy League (Catholic League of France) be burnt and at the same time he commissioned his officials to print images that were supposed to glorify his royal authority and activities. He was also the first king ever to have his portrait added to the map of the capital of France. In 1595 Balthasar Jenichen published in Nuremberg a map of Paris that included the coats of arms of France and Navarre and a portrait of Henry IV. The ruler’s effigy was given a significant role as a testimony of his unquestionablee authority over the city. What is more, in 1609 the king’s allegorical portrait appeared on two other plans of Paris made by François du Quesnel and Nicolay Vassalieu. The iconographical meaning of the ruler’s portrait added as a map decoration is crucial for understanding the propagandistic function of the maps.

Portrait de la ville, cité, et université de Paris

Benedit de Vassalieu, Portrait de la Ville, Cité, et Université de Paris avec les Faubourgs; Dedié au Roy, published by Jean LeClerc, Paris, 1609, copperplate engraving, Bibliothèque nationale de France, FRBNF41500556  re-printed as Paris en 1609 - Fac-simile du Plan de Vassalieu dit Nicolay (Réduction de 1/5), 67 x 82 cm, in Estienne Cholet, Remarques Singulières de Paris ... Accompagnant le Plan de Vassalieu, vol.VI, (Paris: A. Quantin: 1881), 10168.c.34.

This is a facsimilie of an extremely rare map of Paris published by Vassalieu in 1609

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For many years, decorative motifs appearing on early modern maps were treated as merely marginal additions. Yet, in the last few decades specialists in printed maps have increasingly explored the role and the meaning of these various cartouches, vignettes, dedicated borders or allegories. Many maps printed in Europe around 1600 had this kind of symbolic decorative element added. The ruler’s effigy placed on the map was a manifestation of his or her power as it symbolically represented the act of seizing the territory that was depicted. In other words, it was a visual proof of his or her power. In Essays in the History of Cartography Harley and Laxton summarise this issue with one short sentence: 'to own the map was to own the land'.[3] 

In 1616 the little-known Parisian printing shop of Anthoine de Vuauconsains published a very interesting map of the capital city. The etching titled Ville Citte Univercite de Paris, consisting of four copperplates, was made by a Polish-born printmaker and draughtsman, Jan Ziarnko also known as Jean Le Grain or A Grano. He was born in Lviv around 1575 and after a period spent in Cracow training as a painter, he came to Paris around 1608. For about 20 years he worked there for the most important publishers of the time, for example Jean Le Clerc, Melchior Tavernier, or Jacob van der Heyden. 

Ville citte universite de Paris

Jan Ziarnko (1575-1630), Ville Citte Universite de Paris, published by Anthonie de Vuauconsains, Paris, 1616, 67 x 78 cm, Maps CC.5.a.500.

A hand-written annotation within the blank cartouche at bottom left tells us that this map was purchased by John Evelyn (1620–1706), the famous diarist and print collector

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Ziarnko’s map of Paris is a curious compilation of earlier well-known motifs. For example the bird’s-eye view of the city is a copy of a very popular view of the capital from the mid16th century. Nevertheless, Ziarnko’s map is a very accurate and up-to-date representation of the city’s topography. He captured, among other things, Pont Neuf inaugurated by Henry IV in 1607 as well as his equestrian statue commissioned by the Regent Marie de Medicis in 1614. The map also shows Place Royale – today Place des Voges – the most elegant square of the capital. It is worth mentioning that in 1612 Ziarnko depicted the great feast for its inauguration: in April 1612– Marie de Medicis set up a great carrousel that was a three-day long celebration of the announcement of the wedding of then-minor Louis XIII with Anne of Austria.

The most interesting element of the map of Paris, however, the symbolic group visible in the upper left corner of the map. In order to create it Ziarnko copied du Quesnel’s design from 1609, including the equestrian statue of Henry IV in the company of the personifications of Law and Faith, the genius of Fame, and even the symbol of the divine providence. The main difference between Ziarnko and du Quesnel lies in the arrangement of figures and their costumes. When we take into consideration that this symbolic image appeared on a map printed six years after Henry IV’s death, the question arises: what was the reason for its use? It has been assumed that it was a tribute to the ruler and thus it had a commemorative role.[4] Yet, such an interpretation is incomplete since it ignores the second symbolic group located at the bottom left. Described as ‘uncertain personifications’ – or even identified as Parcae, Roman personifications of destiny – the three figures are crucial for understanding the strictly political overtone of the map.

In fact Ziarnko’s map contains the portraits of two rulers: the deceased king, and the widowed Queen, Marie de Medicis. Her figure remained unrecognised in secondary literature until now, even though she is wearing a crown. Ziarnko has created her portrait using a compilation technique, taking certain ready-made and easily recognisable motifs and transforming them to create a new representation. By showing Marie de Medicis flanked by the personifications of Science and of Knowledge, she is shown as a patron of arts.

Theatrum Instrumentorum et Machinarum

Title page of Jacques Besson (about 1540-73), Theatrum instrumentorum et machinarum Iacobi Bessoni Delphinatis, mathematici ingeniosissimi, Cum Francisci Beroaldi figurarum declaratione demonstratiua, necnon vbique necessarijs ac vtilissimis additionibus nunquam hactenus editis auctum atque illustratum: per Iulium Paschalem, published Barth. Vincent, Lugduni (Leiden), 1582, engraving, 41 x 26.5 cm, C.75.i.1

This is the frontispiece from Besson’sTheatrum Instrumentorum et Machinarum: a book of his own mechanical designs and inventions

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A popular French book on mathematics and engineering, Jacques Besson’s illustrated treatise of Theatrum instrumentorum et machinarum, published for the first time in 1578 in Geneva, uses the same compositional scheme and arrangement of the main figures in its frontispiece.

Marie de Medicis’s iconography abounds in many other images that show her as a patron of arts but the most congenial is her allegorical portrait stamped on a coin.  On the occasion of laying a foundation stone for the first modern aqueduct in Paris by the minor king Louis XIII and his mother on 17th July 1613, a commemorative medal was stamped. Its recto contained the Queen’s portrait, while her allegorical image was placed on the verso– she was represented as sitting on a rainbow. The image on the coin – like the allegory on Ziarnko’s map later on – shows the Queen Mother as a symbol of the permanent stability, peace and prosperity in Navarre, France and especially in Paris.

The historical and political context is crucial for a correct interpretation of the iconographical program of Ziarnko’s map. One has to remember that after the assassination of Henry IV Paris was Marie de Medicis’ to rule on behalf of the minor Louis XIII. After his coronation in 1614 the Queen Mother tried to retain her influence over the young king and his policy. At the same time she had to face the revolt of a coalition of the great nobility led by the third prince Condé.[5] The national conflict and the struggle for domination among Louis XIII, Marie de Medicis, her officials, and the great noblemen were reflected in an immense production of printed materials. In his monograph Printed Poison Jeffrey K. Sewyer analyses the circulation of propaganda literature. All the parties of the conflict were well aware of the fact that printed words and images could be used to manipulate the public opinion.

Given a huge number of leaflets, posters and different types of small books which were printed, exchanged and read from 1614 till 1617, one can think of this period as of a time of a pamphlet campaign. One of its most interesting aspects were pamphlet dialogues. The publication of a pamphlet containing a political thesis would usually cause a chain reaction of subsequent written replies or a ‘pamphlet discussion’. If one considers the publishing market in Paris as a whole, one can see an analogy between pamphlets and printed images.

In 1615 Matheus Merian executed an outstanding plan of Paris. The bird’s eye view was adorned with portraits ordered in two columns. Those were portraits of various citizens of Paris, but above all, of the young king Louis XIII and his just-married wife Anne of Austria –both sitting on thrones. The political meaning of the map was clear: it underlined the position of the new rulers. The following year Jan Ziarnko, who had already worked for Marie de Medicis, executed a new map of the capital which may be considered as a printed reaction to the propagandistic content of Merian’s map. Even if Ziarnko’s map of Paris did not negate Louis XIII’s rights to the throne, its aim was to emphasise the Queen Mother’s position and role. The message was that she was the direct heir of the murdered king, Henry IV, and a guarantor of peace and prosperity, achieved thanks to her husband’s ruling. Thus, the 1616 map was a propaganda tool intended to ensure Marie Medicis’s influence on the young king’s policy.

Le plan de la ville, cité, université, fauxbourgs de Paris

Melchoir Tavernier (1564-1641), Le plan de la ville, cité, université, fauxbourgs de Paris avec la description de son antiquité, published by Melchoir Tavernier, Paris, 1630, 74 x 48 cm, Maps * 14295.(229.)

This plan of Paris by Melchoir Tavernier is a modified and updated version of one produced by Matthias Merian (1593–1650) in 1615

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Nevertheless, in 1617 Louis XIII manifested his firmness and independence from his mother who was subsequently exiled to the Château de Blois. As a result, the map, together with its symbolic and political content became out of date or even inexpedient. One may suppose that it must have disappeared rather quickly from the market. It is, then, significant that it remained unknown for a long time, even to researchers, and that we know of only two copies of it, one at the British Library, and another at the Chateau de Vincennes. The first of them comes from the collection of an English print collector and diarist John Evelyn (1620–1706) who acquired Ziarnko’s map in November 1643 during his stay in Paris as an object of curiosity.[6] 

In May the same year Louis XIII died and his five year-old son inherited the crown. During the First Fronde (La Fronde Parlamentaire) that took place in 1648, citizens of Paris rose against the king and his court and barricaded the streets. Therefore, there was an urgent need to promote the glory and the power of the kingdom and the king himself. As a city map was a useful tool which could easily symbolise Louis XIII’s domination over the rebellious capital, a Parisian publisher and map-seller Nicolas Berey I decided to rework Ziarnko’s already existing plates. He was probably impressed by the quality (in terms of precision and artistry) of Ziarnko’s cartographic work. Berey updated the topography of the city, but also – and more importantly – he removed all the allegorical groups and replaced Henry’s equestrian statue by an oval portrait of Louis XIV. 

Ville, Citté, Université de Paris Corigé en 1648

Jan Ziarnko, Ville, Citté, Université de Paris Corigé en 1648, published by Nicolas Berey, Paris, 1648, copperplate engraving, on two sheets, 68 x 22.4 cm,etching reworked with engraving, FRBNF41503722

Berey acquired the copperplates for Jan Ziarnko’s 1616 map of Paris, modifying them to show how the city had changed over 30 years 

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Held by © Bibliothèque nationale de France

Thus, the same map was reused as a tool or rather a weapon in a political conflict. The ‘afterlife’ of Ziarnko’s print was more successful as there were three editions of the map in 1648, 1666 and 1668–69. The case of Jan Ziarnko’s map of Paris confirms that successive French rulers used the map as a tool in political struggles. Portraits of Henry IV, Marie de Medicis, Louis XIII as well as Louis XIV that were placed on maps of Paris had always the same function – to emphasise their symbolic control over the capital city.

[1] The motto is considered apocryphal. For more about the political circumstances of converting to Catholicism see Michael Wolfe, The Conversion of Henri IV: Politics, and Religious Belief in Early Modern France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

[2] See more: Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIX (London: Yale University Press, 1992).

[3] John Brian Harley and Paul Laxton (eds.), The New Nature of Maps: Essays in the History of Cartography (Baltimore and London: JHU Press, 2001) p. 75.

[4] Jean Boutier, Les Plans de Paris des origines (1493) à la fin du XVIIIe siècle: étude, carto-bibliographie et catalogue colectif (Paris: Bibliothèqu Nationale de France, 2007), p. 122, 138-139, nos. 48, 75; Peter Barber and Tom Harper (eds.), Magnificent Maps. Power, Propaganda and Art (London: The Brtitish Library, 2010)  p. 90.

[5] Jeffrey K. Sawyer, Printed Poison. Pamphlet Propaganda, Faction Politics, and the Public Sphere in Early Seventeenth-Century France (Berkeley; Los Angeles; Oxford: University of California Press, 1990) p. IV.

[6] Barber and Harper, Magnificent Maps, p. 90.

  • Małgorzata Biłozór-Salwa
  • Małgorzata Biłozór-Salwa is Curator of Old Master Drawings in the Print Room of the University of Warsaw Library. She graduated in history of art and musicology at the Faculty of History of the University of Warsaw, and her interests include 17th century print culture and musical iconography.