Portraiture as a style of representation generally depicts a subject—subjects which could include both people and cities—as a single entity, aiming to construct an argument about some characteristics of that entity. Chorographic city views and maps can often be considered examples of portraits that utilize locations, such as cities, as their subjects. Portraiture also has a close connection to landscape, another artistic style that saw significant development during the medieval and early modern periods. Portraits were distinct because they took a specific view of their subject rather than a broad view of an environment, and because they allowed more representational imagination[1] . As Jessica Maier wrote, "In portraits the goal was not to make the image mimetically true to life (in fact, there was an aversion to too much truth) but rather to make it lifelike."[2]  Portraits aimed to capture the vitality of their subjects and often to depict them in the most flattering possible way.[3]  This meant that sacrificing some level of detail or even creating an image that was in part imagined was accepted and often even preferred. As an example, a city portrait of Rome created in 1551 by Leonardo Bufalini memorialized Rome by creating an atemporal image of the city, with an imagined juxtaposition of both ancient and then-modern landmarks.[4]  Long-since ruined ancient structures were depicted as intact, projecting both nostalgia for a glorious past and hope for the future.


Leonardo Bufalini, Roma, 1551

Maier discusses conventions of accurate representation of subjects and physical space through the analysis of city portraits of Rome. One of these was the city portrait of Rome by Bufalini discussed above. The other city portrait of Rome that Maier discusses, created by Mario Cartaro in 1575, places much more emphasis on Rome’s modernity rather than its air of nostalgia. Cartaro depicts construction and order within the city instead of resurrecting ancient ruins.[JS5]  Maier identifies these ways in which the creator of a city portrait might maintain an accurate likeness of the city while still making it lifelike and projecting some ideal vision of the city and its values.


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

[2] Maier, Jessica. “A ‘True Likeness’: The Renaissance City Portrait,” Renaissance Quarterly, vol 65, no. 3 (2012): 715. 

[3] Maier, 713. 

[4] Maier, 732.

[5] Maier, 739.

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