Fool’s Head World Map
Based on an earlier fool’s cap map made by Jean de Gourmont II (active 1565–1585), this striking monochrome map has been much discussed, but its authorship remains unclear.Full description »
Based on an earlier fool’s cap map made by Jean de Gourmont II (active 1565–1585), this striking monochrome map has been much discussed, but its authorship remains unclear. As Dallas Pratt wrote to R.V. Tooley in 1969, ‘All in all, the Fool’s map has succeeded in making mock of some of the experts, a situation quite in the spirit of the satirical mottoes of the map!’ In Robert Burton’s 'Anatomy of Melancholy' of 1621 there is an allusion to a map, framed in a fool’s head by one ‘Epichthonius Cosmopolites’, that expresses the view of the world as either mad or melancholic. After extensive research to determine the identity of the map’s maker, all that can be said with certainty is that this convoluted name may be a pseudonym. Whoever he was, the author of this map was either misanthropic or making a pretence of being so – as if playing a theatrical part. The Latin epigrams lamenting mankind’s follies include: Cicero’s dictum to ‘know thyself’; the Biblical precept ‘vanity of vanities and all [is] vanity’; ‘O head in need of hellebore’ (a plant remedy traditionally thought to cure madness); ‘Who does not have asses’ ears?’; and ‘The number of fools is infinite.’
Jean de Gourmont’s woodcut map had similar inscriptions in French, but it does not match the quality of the copperplate version pictured here. On stylistic grounds, Frans Hogenberg has been proposed as the engraver of the work. This suggestion is credible because the map enclosed within the fool’s cap is the world map from Ortelius’s 'Theatrum', on which Hogenberg collaborated. Significantly, the ‘bulge’ on the southwestern part of South America has been corrected, therefore dating this map to post 1587.
From 1587 (circa) to 1595 (circa)