Life in Antwerp through the eyes of the Italian Guicciardini

Life in the Netherlands in the 16th century

Go back in time to Antwerp and the Netherlands in the 16th century. Lodovico Guicciardini, an Italian merchant who settles in Antwerp, describes in detail the life in the cities of the Netherlands at the time. Do we still recognize ourselves in his descriptions today?
Friday 03 December 2021 - Sunday 06 March 2022 from 10:00 to 17:00
Individual visitors

In 2021 it will be exactly 500 years ago that the Italian writer Lodovico Guicciardini (1521-1589) was born. The Plantin-Moretus Museum does not leave this special anniversary unnoticed.


Who is Guicciardini?

Guicciardini is an Italian merchant who works in the Antwerp branch of the family business since 1541. Like Christoffel Plantin, Guicciardini is a migrant who moves to the Netherlands for his job and settles in Antwerp. He remains in Antwerp until his death (3/22/1589).


A description of the Netherlands from 500 years ago

Lodovico's career takes a turn when he starts writing in 1552, an activity that he believes is more profitable than his work as a merchant. In 1567 he published his bestseller: Descrittione ... di tutti i Paesi Bassi altrimenti detti Germania inferiore. In this remarkable book he describes all the cities of the Netherlands. The book is published more than 60 times, by various printers. We read his experiences with Antwerp and the Netherlands from 500 years ago. Guicciardini not only describes the economy, politics, language, flora, fauna and national character of the prosperous Netherlands, but also criticizes the devastating influence of the Spanish War on the prosperous country. A striking amount of attention is paid to his hometown Antwerp. 

Kaart van Antwerpen


Do we still recognize ourselves in the description?

The description of Guicciardini stimulates and challenges. She spontaneously conjures up images of landscapes, animals, people, clothing. Well-known depictions of farm weddings, a dog on the hunt.

Do "we", residents of the city, recognize and trick us into the description? Do residents of foreign origin recognize themselves in the descriptions? What do they notice? What's the same? What is different?


Browse his book

Browse through his work now. The book was illustrated with many maps, city views and plans:


Science at a glance

Science became very popular in the 16th century. The study of ancient text is the start of critical and independent research. With the art of printing, knowledge that was previously only available in manuscripts is now printed in large numbers. The same text reaches more scientists who can respond more quickly. This is how the sciences develop at lightning speed. Crossroads of knowledge The port city of Antwerp and Plantin's publishing house are a crossroads of knowledge exchange. It is therefore not surprising that Guicciardini establishes himself as a merchant in Antwerp and pays remarkably more attention in his book to life in Antwerp. Here new products and knowledge are transformed into merchandise. Plantin prints and disseminates knowledge worldwide. He publishes 55% of all scientific books in the Southern Netherlands.


Antwerp on paper

In the 16th century, the rich trading metropolis of Antwerp was a pole of attraction for many Europeans. It is also an Italian who portrays Antwerp. This famous woodcut by Virgilius Bononiensis shows Antwerp in 1565. Bononiensis - or Boloniensis - possibly an Italian from Bologna. In exactly the same period that the Italian Guicciardini from Firenze describes the city of Antwerp. One detailed in words, the other in images. 

Plan van Antwerpen

This map will be restored in 2021 and will be shown again during the exhibition Coming an Italian to the Netherlands. After the exhibition, this masterpiece will rest in storage again, for a few years. So take your chance this fall.

Museum Plantin-Moretus
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