Non ex quovis Ligno Fit Mercurius A Macao in Chyna

Daniel Meisner1629

Museu do Oriente

Museu do Oriente
Lisboa, Portugal

Engraving depicting a bird's-eye view of Macau, published in the Thesaurus Philopoliticus, conceived by the German poet and cartographer Daniel Meisner (1585-1625) and first published in 1623, with subsequent editions in the following years. The view is from Lapa Island, bordering the Inner Harbour, which appears in the foreground with its coves and a large anchored ship. By contrast, in the background and upper part of the composition, we can see Praia Grande, with rowing boats, having yet to attain the prominence it would have in urban iconography from the second half of the 16th century onwards, although the bulwark surrounding the standardised depiction of what would become the Convent of St Francisco is worthy of note. To the left of the composition, a porter can be seen walking on the Isthmus that connects the peninsula to the Chinese mainland. On the opposite site, at the far end of the peninsula, some buildings are sketched in which are meant to represent the Temple of A-Ma. The remaining, nondescript settlements, as well as the turreted buildings, which could be churches (from left to right, St Paulo’s college, the cathedral, and St Lourenço), are laid out somewhat arbitrarily in the centre of the composition, defining streets and squares, one of them, the Senate and Misericórdia, with a cross. Dotted around this urban tableau, different scenes of the daily life are being depicted: noblemen, on foot or on horseback, shaded by parasols held by servants, a soldier walking, a pastoral scene and also a sedan chair carried by porters.
This depiction of Macau is based on the famous 1606 engraving by Johann Théodore de Bry (1561-1623), included in the series devoted to the East Indies known as Petits Voyages. Meisner’s perspective follows the usual standard of "views" of cities from his collection, with the title and footnote captions consisting of snippets of poetic text he himself wrote in Latin and German, and, in the foreground, a curious figure of an American Indian engaged in some kind of circus act inciting a four-legged animal to jump through a hoop. In the depiction of the city, similarly to its direct source of inspiration, the built-up area is disproportionate to its surroundings.
Fernando António Baptista Pereira in the catalogue Presença Portuguesa na Ásia, Museu do Oriente, 2008, p. 149


  • Title: Non ex quovis Ligno Fit Mercurius A Macao in Chyna
  • Creator: Daniel Meisner
  • Date Created: 1629
  • Location: Germany, Frankfurt
  • Physical Dimensions: 9,5 x 14 cm
  • Type: Engraving
  • Rights: Fundação Oriente - Museu do Oriente
  • External Link: http://www.museudooriente.pt/
  • Medium: copper engraving on paper
  • Photographer: Image by Google

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