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GREECE – RHODES: Vue de Rhodes.



An extremely rare, aparently separately-issued, Late 17th Century French bird’s eye view of Rhodes, Greece, depicting the 1480 Ottoman Siege of the city, with magnificent original colour.

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This extremely rare and highly attractive bird’s eye view of Rhodes, Greece depicts the city during the unsuccessful Ottoman siege of the city of 1480.  The Island of Rhodes was then ruled by the Crusader society of The Knights Hospitaller (formally the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem), but lying just off of the Anatolian coast, it was a prime target for Turkish conquest.  From May to August 1480, a massive Ottoman force of 70,000 men and 160 ships besieged the fortified city of Rhodes, which was defended by only 10,000 troops, under the Order’s Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson.  The Christian garrison weathered the siege, extending their rule over the island for another four decades.  However, the Ottomans attempted another siege in 1521-2, which proved successful.  Rhodes would then remain under Ottoman rule for almost four centuries.

The present work maintains a panoptic view of Rhodes and the miltary action.  The old walled city and the heavily fortified port appear in the foregorund; as the camps and lines of the massive Turkish jugernaut occupy the countyside in the background; while the great Ottoman flotilla is visible in the upper right.  The key below the view identifies 9 key sites, including: A. The spot where the Turkish forces landed; C. The first batteries  of the Turks; G. the Palace of the Grand Master.

This present view seems to be so rare that, lacking an imprint, a great deal of mystery surrounds its publication.  It is obviously French and stylistically can be dated from the late 17th Century.  It is apparently separately-issued, as indicated by the presence of a manuscript page number in the lower left corner (suggesting that it was once bound within a sammelband of broadsides); it features full original colour (unusual for such a plate if bound within a contemprary book); and, moreover we cannot trace any illustrations from known relevant printed books that match this view.

That being said, we can identify the orignal antecent of the view.  It is based on a view of the 1480 Siege of Rhodes contained within a spectacular illuminated manuscript book entitled “Gestorum Rhodie obsidionis commentarii” [La Geste de Rhodes], dated 1483 (BNF Lat.6067), that was made under the direction of Guillaume Caoursin, the Vice-Chancellor of the Knights Hospitaller and an eyewitness to the siege.

We have been able to trace only a single other example of the view, held by Det Kongelige Bibliotek (Copenhagen).

References: OCLC: 876288440.

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