Turin Chorographies Overview

The collection of Turin chorographies reveals how the style and focus of maps can be momentarily affected by events in a city’s history. Specifically, military conflict around Turin in the early 1700s changed period depictions of the city relative to the timeline of the entire collection (1682 to 1750). In the 17th century, the 1682 chorography is by Joan Blaeu while the other from 1692 says “Fait par Avelineavec Privilege de Roy.” Both works depict Turin from above the west bank of the Po River. While the chorographies may at first seem like they are working off each other, in reality, they only share the same perspective. The general layout of Turin in each is similar, but the way particular sections of the city and buildings are drawn varies in each. For example, each map depicts three city blocks in the center right of the view; however, Blaeu’s blocks are wider and take up a larger area. The buildings themselves are part of the same grouping in each, but are also drawn differently.Chorographies and illustrations during the siege of 1706, part of the Spanish War of Succession, shift the focus of works depicting Turin. For example, the work “Turin Citadell” from 1703 depicts the city from ground level. It focuses less on the city itself, and more on the besieging forces. Moreover, it shows where cannon fire from the illustration would fall by situating a city plan of Turin over the main illustration. In this case, the emphasis on the conflict instead of Turin itself profoundly changes the chorography.After the fighting around Turin dissipates, the chorographies return to more city-focused views. Anna Beeck’s “Veue de la ville de Turin et ses environs,'' from a 1709 atlas detailing European cities and fortifications, illustrates this quick shift as she returns to the view across the Po seen in the 17th century maps. Instead of cannons around the city, the chorography depicts farmland and a cartographer and their assistant. However, the work may betray some lingering martial sentiment as it depicts, in a detailed top-down plan, Turin’s walls, citadel, and other nearby fortifications. This dissonance might speak more to the atlas’ purpose as a catalogue of European fortifications.The original Turin map from 1750 completes this transition out of wartime. Friedrich Werner, the cartographer, the creator of the work, utilizes the same above-the-Po perspective, but zooms in on the city itself instead of “ses environs.” The imposing fortifications still feature prominently, but the presence of daily life does so too. Men punt on the previously empty Po and walk or ride along its banks, one even with a dog. In this sense, the collection of Turin chorographies shows not only the lingering influence an event can have on depictions of a city, but also how that effect dissipates over time.

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