Atlante Trevigiano

Cartography and iconography of town and region from the 15th to the 20th century

Thirty-five years after the last town initiative, the Foundation set up an exhibition, from 22nd January to 17th April 2011, of a rich collection of prints depicting the town of Treviso and its region, striving to offer a close look at the history of cartographic representation.

The exhibition, entitled Atlante Trevigiano (Treviso’s Atlas), called for significant investment in all respects, but mainly in terms of the research that has distinguished our activity for almost twenty-five years.

The idea took shape in 2008 when a cartography and iconography collection on the town of Treviso and its region — covering a time span of almost four centuries, from the 15th to the 19th century — was acquired by the documentation centre.

A collection of over one hundred documents, patiently collected over more than twenty years by a collector from Treviso: dental surgeon Domenico Vianello Bote.

From the onset, one of the priorities of this project, developed to protect and promote appreciation of this cultural asset, was to show the materials to the public. But before that, it was necessary to study the collection. In over one year of work, each individual print was traced back to its original volume, a copy of which, in many cases, was still held in one of the Treviso public libraries.

A private collection therefore soon took on the role of a useful medium to investigate Treviso’s collective sensitivity to this particular type of document. The relationship between Treviso and historical cartography was strange indeed, careless and intermittent: three exhibitions over the span of one hundred years, not all of which were monographic.

Atlante Trevigiano aimed to offer a sample of the collective imagination on this aspect of figurative culture, summoning a number of local institutions, which joined our project from the very start: Municipal Library and Town Museums, Library of the Episcopal Seminary, State Archives, Municipal Historical Archive and Depot, Provincial Historical Photography Archive, Study Centre for the History of the Veneto Countryside of Ca’ Tron.

But a collection of antique prints is very often the result of ravages perpetrated against the original books, in most cases from public libraries. Usually, the picture of the region or town is cut out, with varying degrees of care, from the pages of atlases or geography books, de-contextualised and sealed in cases and frames, hanging from the walls of reception rooms and boardrooms for crystallised access.

The exhibition sought to start a conversation on the typical methods of antiquarians and collectors, as well as provide a sample of the complex and articulated set of social relations connecting printers, publishers, geographers, humanists, engineers, technicians and artists, both local and international, who kept the local milieu of Treviso firmly linked to the greatest European publishing phenomena between the 15th and 18th century.

Lastly, Atlante Trevigiano also sought to steer the conversation towards the “methods” for producing maps, today as in the past, faithful mirrors of the cultural milieu and of society’s ability to interpret and depict the territory. The exhibition provided opportunities to compare a mid-1800s print of the provincial territory with an orthophoto, a 17th century painting of the town with a regional technical map, an early 1800s view with a contemporary picture from the same viewpoint, with the aim of continuing to critically stimulate our world view on the basis of a well-documented research activity, an indispensable resource for any reflection and project on the future.