“Potentissimae Helvetiorum Reipublicae cantones tredecim…” [The thirteen most important cantons of the Swiss Republic…], copper engraving published by Johann Baptist Homann in Neuremberg around 1730. Original hand colouring with later additions. Size: 49,5 x 58 cm.
Whilst Europe was torn by the Thirty Years’ War, Switzerland experienced the 17th century as a period of peace and rising prosperity. The cities generally lay low and watched the destruction from afar. Neutrality was beneficial to the economy, allowing the confederation to supply other countries with goods. The influx of refugees, especially French Huguenots after their expulsion in 1685, was particularly important in rehabilitating old crafts and establishing new enterprises.
Accumulated mainly from the pensions of the mercenary system and from commercial sources, Swiss capital was desperately needed in those countries that constantly were at war, especially in France, and Genevan bankers became the centre of an extensive European financial network.
There was plenty of capital available to finance industrial expansion. Natural resources did not exist in sufficient quantities for easy exploitation and the cultivation of land could not support the rising population, meaning the Swiss Confederation had ample supply of labour. As landlocked Switzerland had no shipping enterprises or colonial possessions, industry was the obvious way to develop economically.
The map’s large title cartouche incorporates coats of arms of the thirteen cantons of Early Modern Switserland as well as 20 coats of arms of “allied and subject provinces”. Armed putti are waving the Swiss confederate flag. The decoration in the lower left has an Alpine scene with cows and a traveller crossing a river on a mountain pass. A second scene shows a local preparing cheese in a kettle.