The Port of Colombo, Ceylon
18th Century Perspective View
of Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
This brightly colored perspective view shows the port of the city of Colombo in Ceylon.
A wonderful image from the spice trade, Colombo was the port city for the export of Cinnamon. Many trading ships are shown in the harbor. Smoke billows from the sides of the galleon that is just entering the harbour. We are not certain what this represents (cannons being fired, a fire on board, some sort of breaking mechanism or salute as the ship enters the harbor?)
The text reads: La Ville de Colombo, sur le grand et agreable Isle de Ceylon, riche de Caneille, la quelle a ete batie par les Portugais il y a plus de 200 ans, et en 1656 elle a ete prise par les Hollandois.
(The city of Colombo on the large, agreable and cinnamon-rich island of Ceylon, which was built more than 200 years ago by the Portugese and in 1656 was captured by the Dutch.)
Perspective Views (Also: Optical print, vue perspective, vue d’optique or in German, Guckkastenblättern) were meant to be seen with a special viewer or Zograscope to enhance the three dimensional effect. They were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were designed according to strict principles of linear perspective, with a distant object placed in the center of the print, as is the case with this example.
Viewed through a special “machine,” the three dimensional effect was enhanced. The colors of these wonderful old prints are often bright and naive, as for children’s illustrations. Traveling vendors — who went around to fairs offering views of the images through the Optical Machine for a few pennies — often did the handcoloring themselves, so it tends to be a bit rough compared with other period engravings. In our view this adds to the charm of these pieces!