The invention of landscape views had an impact beyond that of painting. Landscape can be described simply as “the appearance of an area, the assemblage of objects used to produce that appearance, and the area itself.”[1]  Landscape’s introduction to cartography is considered by some scholars to have been birthed in the western European Renaissance while others suggest that its use predates the European Renaissance in Islamic and Eastern painting. In addition to maps and artistic works, textual descriptions can also fall under the category of landscape[2] . The unique qualities of landscape as a style are articulated below by historian Veronica della Dora:

Unlike place, landscape often embeds a scenic quality. It presupposes distancing from the land. While place is usually ascribed emotional connotations, as a concept, landscape grants the geographer the necessary distance to look at the world from a critical stance. It offers the illusion of simultaneous immersion and detachment.[3] 

Veronica Della Dora writes extensively about the development of landscape in the European Renaissance. According to her intervention, early geographic theorists like Denis Cosgrove overstated the importance of Ptolemy's influence and linear perspective to the creation of landscape.[4]  Instead of strict adherence to rules of linear perspective, early modern landscapes often employed non-linear views in order to better capture intangible qualities of the land.[5] 

A view through the lens of landscape does not necessarily focus on any particular aspect of the land. Instead, it imagines the land as a whole, as a collection of objects that give the view a certain mood. The concepts of landscape and portrait are closely related—while portraits generally have a specific subject (whether that be a person or a city) and aim to reflect specific traits of that subject, landscape takes a broader perspective.[6] During the Renaissance and early modern period, portrait and landscape were alike in that neither was especially preoccupied with staying realistic and offering an objective viewpoint. Instead, creators of both portraits and landscapes tried to reflect a sense of time and memory, and to create an image that was lifelike and evocative.[7] 

Despite this, however, it is clear that landscape views in particular demanded more complex representational strategies. Landscapes require a vantage point of visual observation, either through onsite drafting or use of a perspectival system to convey a relationship between notable landmark.[8] The trials of this aspect of landscape, and later chorographic maps, is evident in the difficulties of 3D representation. Three-dimensional imaging requires positioning of a camera, localized at the “vantage point” of the observer. Many landscape chorographies, however, employ multiple perspectives. Moreover, the imaginative aspects of landscape chorographies are further revealed when cartographers employ perspectives logistically impossible for a draftsman, due to a lack of elevated ground nearby the location, or other geological factors.


[1] della Dora, Veronica. “Topia: Landscape before Linear Perspective.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103, no. 3 (2013): 688

[2] della Dora, “Topia,” 688

[3] della Dora, Veronica. Landscape, Nature, and the Sacred in Byzantium. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016: pp. 3

[4] della Dora, Veronica. “Topia,” 689

[5] della Dora, Veronica. “Topia,” 689

[6] Maier, Jessica. “A ‘True Likeness’: The Renaissance City Portrait,” Renaissance Quarterly, vol 65, no. 3 (2012): 727

[7] Maier, 732

[8] Nuti, Lucia. “The Perspective Plan in the Sixteenth Century: The Invention of a Representational Language.” The Art Bulletin 76, no. 1 (1994): 107

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