Anthropomorphic Maps and the

Human Shape of the Holy Land

Chapter 4 - The Map as a Work of Art

 

The concept 'World Image', in Latin 'IMAGO MUNDI', epitomizes the complex nature of Cartography. It reflects its outlining and artistic sides. Although modern Cartography uses elaborate measuring tools and removed many of the decorative elements from maps, maps are still a subject for aesthetic shaping. Moreover, scientific mapping must show reality selectively because of the use of symbols. Even accurate maps represent interpretive view point.

 

It can be noticed at first sight that art and science existed side by side along the History of Cartography. Maps connected worlds of religious and folkloristic symbols with geographic and cosmographic knowledge. The artistic decorations around maps are a sign of this relationship between art and sciene. These decorations expressed clear linkage between methods of geographic outlining and art and style of a certain era. Maps became an influential way of delivering messages through culture related symbols. Many antique maps represent a visual extraction of the total knowledge of their creators and they are considered works of arts.

 

The natural integration between map and art is reflected in Ptolemai's world map from the 3th century.

The natural integration between map and art is reflected in Ptolemai's world map from the 3rd century

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An antique European map expresses a Christian hegemony in the Near East

An antique European map expresses a Christian hegemony in the Near East

 

The cooperation between cartographers and artists strengthened with the insertion of picturesque and decorative elements into maps and filling empty areas with them. Historical and biblical events where added too. A co-existence between accurate mapping and contemporary art was established.

 

A map of the Holy Land by Sebastian Munster  16th century

A map of the Holy Land by Sebastian Munster 16th century

 

 

The schematic and abstract representation of the world is done in maps with a special alphabet. It contains lines, colors, symbols, shades and more. The design of maps reflects an artistic tension between shape, content and knowledge.

 

The legend of a modern topographic map contain dozens of graphic symbols

 

A senior cartographer of our time argues: "To capture the essence of the landscape we must combine the components graphically in a way that an iconic quality will be received. This aspect of topographic mapping is similar to portrait painting because its aim is to produce a character which will combine outlining and expression that reflects the essence of the figure."

Another senior cartographer says: "A good topographic map must look like a national monument. It must be a cartographic reflection of the landscape that represents the relief and other important landscape elements in a way that emphasizes a geographic uniqueness.

 

The infinite accuracy and the sophisticated graphics abilities, together with the development of visual communications, caused any serious agent who designs a map in our days to reflect in it convincingly any elements he chooses.

 

Two maps of Northern California: One creates an impression of an urban area and the other of a pastoral region

 

Two topographic maps of Israel: In the left map the vertical dimension is emphasized from a South-East point of view

 

 

Modern Cartography, after achieving the complete accuracy of details, may assume that the average map reader recognizes easily any familiar region. This assumption is used for creating maps where the terrain is presented in a certain distortion, in order to illustrate specific facts.

 

Common examples are 'bird-view maps' which emphasizes the vertical dimension of the landscape above its actual scale.

 

Cram  A bird view of the Holy Land - 1886

Cram A bird view of the Holy Land - 1886

 

Another way of using the absolute knowledge of the terrain shape is maps where a geographic unit is resized according to the relative size of a certain data which is the map's subject. In 'world population maps' China will appears very big and Libya very small. In 'world oil map' Kuwait will be bigger then India.

 

A world population map with a relative resizing of each state

A world population map with relative resizing of each state

 

A third popular style is transforming the map into a simple background for some big images which are the main subject. In a way it is a 'comeback' to the early maps with the artistic decoration around the scientific outlining.

 

Israel Map for children

Israel Map for children

 

 

 

Bibliography:

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