IN THE LATE 1580s, Florentine painter and printmaker Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630), having thrived under the earlier Pope Gregory XIII, found himself on the ebbing end of the next Pope, Sixtus V's patronage. Tempesta's commissions to fresco churches or residences had fallen off, but the burgeoning print market offered new opportunities. Printed images of Rome proved increasingly popular with pilgrims, particularly in anticipation of the Jubilee of 1600. Moreover, Rome's urban transformation under Sixtus V refocused attention from the ruined glories of the imperial past to the grandiose design of new thoroughfares, piazzas, fountains, and edifices. The newly mastered engineering feat of transporting obelisks symbolized the passage of grandeur from Roman emperors to Popes—obelisks displaced from their pagan settings now rose throughout the city, facing churches and ecclesiastical palaces. An immense bird's-eye view depiction of the city, greater in size and detail than any predecessor, would celebrate the new Rome, and would advertise Tempesta's representational accomplishments to prospective papal patrons and other benefactors. It would also enhance his reputation as a printmaker.
Tempesta may have perceived even greater need for alternative sources of income as the early demise of Sixtus V, and the fleeting reigns of his immediate successors—three popes in two of the years during which Tempesta would have been developing his map—rendered the prospect of papal patronage ever more precar-ious. When Tempesta completed his map, Clement VIII, a fellow-Florentine, was in the second year of an eventual 13-year papacy. By this point, however, if Tempesta was still hoping for lucrative work as a painter of large-scale frescos, he was also extensively exploiting the print market. Wary, it seems, of papal inconstancy in largess or longevity, Tempesta dedicated his map not to Clement VIII, but to Jacobo Bosio, the representative of the Knights of Malta to the Holy See. The map was monumental in every sense—it measured 103.5 x 244 cm, and gave a comprehensive coverage of imposing new buildings as well as ordinary dwellings—and it set a new standard for visual representations of contemporary Rome.