Atlas Miller


Coat of Arms

The coat-of-arms that was later added to the frontispiece of the Atlas Miller reveals that it belonged to Catherine de’ Medici, who was born in the same year (1519) as the work was created. She would later become queen of France by her marriage to Henri II (r. 1547-1559), and mother to three other French kings: François II (r. 1559-1560), Charles IX (r. 1560-1574) and Henri III (r. 1574-1589). Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589) was the daughter of Lorenzo II, Duke of Urbino (1492-1519) and the grandniece of Leo X, as her grandfather was Pietro de’ Medici (1471-1503), the pope’s brother. It is not inconceivable that Leo may have seen the atlas offered by King Manuel as a personal gift and incorporated it into the family’s heirlooms rather than keeping it in the Vatican. It may even – although this is pure speculation – have been given to Catherine as a baptism present. Equally, it could have remained in Rome for some time before being given to Catherine by a later Medici pope, Clement VII (r. 1523-1534), a cousin of Leo X and of Pietro de’ Medici, Catherine’s grandfather. Of all these hypotheses, the first seems the most probable. Catherine’s coat-of-arms, which now appear immediately under the opening title of the Atlas Miller, must have been added after the death of Henri II of France in 1559, as it bears the cordelière de veuve that Catherine logically would only have used after that date. However, this does not exclude the possibility that the atlas had already been in her possession before that date.

Luís Filipe Thomaz
Director of the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Portuguese Catholic University
(Fragment of the Atlas Miller commentary volume)

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