The first depiction of Athens

The first images of Athens and the Acropolis and the first travel logs took a long time to be published in books. We should not forget that during the Middle Ages, Athens was just a small village with only the ancient ruins reminiscent of its former ancient glory. But who cared in those times? The Renaissance was the reason that the interest in antiquities had put the spotlight back on Athens, while the invention of printing made it ​​possible for the implementation and rapid spread of travel logs, drawings, engravings and later in the 19th century the photograph.

The truth is that the conquest of the Greek lands by the Ottoman Empire that ended after 1453 and the fall of Constantinople had made it quite difficult for westerners to travel to Greece. So most of the texts, maps and other representations of Greece and Greek antiquities – which seemed to be at the time the Eldorado of looters – was more of a tour in the texts of ancient authors,  the work of their imagination and their wishful thinking rather than the result of actual fieldwork. One of the first scientists with an interest in antiquity who actually travelled to Greece and whose logs and drawings made ​​a huge impression in Europe was Jacques Spon (1647-1685) who had studied as a doctor and was seen by others as a pioneer in the field of archeology but I would say that he was more of a pioneer in the pillaging of antiquities, together with his travel companion Sir George Wheler.

The first years that Athens began to draw the interest of travelers, painting and mapping were such difficult practices, requiring inspiration, talent and a lot of effort,  most of the authors and publishers just published books with information for Athens  by copying each other. Looking at the first published paintings, engravings and drawings  of Athens, I chose two to present to you due to their great interest – because they are the first realistic depictions of Athens and the Acropolis – and also because in my opinion either one of them is a copy of the other or both of them are alterations of a third, already existing drawing.

I present two drawings and one of my photos of modern Athens taken from about the same location where these first drawings were made and you can draw your own conclusions.

athens drawingCORONELLI, Vincenzo. Repubblica di Venezia p. IV. Citta, Fortezze, ed altri Luoghi principali dell’ Albania, Epiro e Livadia, e particolarmente i posseduti da Veneti descritti e delineati dal p. Coronelli, Venice, 1688. athens drawingFANELLI, Francesco. Atene Attica Descritta da suoi Principii sino all’ acquisto fatto dall’ Armi Venete nel 1687… Divisa in quattro parti. Con varieta di medaglie, ritratti, e dissegni, Venice, Antonio Bortoli, 1707.athens acropolis photo

Source of the drawings

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