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Atlas Miller: Cartographic fake news and the Magellan expedition
Drawn in 1519 by Lopo Homem, Pedro Reinel and his son Jorge Reinel, with illuminations that are the work of António de Holanda, the so-called Atlas Miller is – in aesthetic terms – the culminating wonder of 16th-century Portuguese cartography.
From an aesthetic point of view, it is undoubtedly the most luxurious work of its kind, which suggests that its royal sponsor King Manuel I of Portugal (r. 1495-1521) commissioned it as an official state gift. It can even be deemed to be a propaganda tool for Manueline imperialism, tinged with messianic airs. The illuminations give off a sense of optimism, as the exotica – elephants, camels, American fauna, brazilwood, imposing Oriental cities and even the griffin and dragon among Asia’s mythological fauna – becomes familiar, and the richness seems to be overabundant, heaping possessions upon the needy and uplifting the humble.