In the previous post we talked about the illuminated codex that deals with Marco Polo'sVoyage to the East, that is, about the miniatures that illustrate his account of the Book of Wonders. But we have already mentioned that in this book safeguarded in the National Library of France there is also a place for other medieval texts that spoke about the East, especially about the Near East, when that territory was the object of theCrusades.
The Caliph of Baghdad and the Christians
That is why miniatures appear like the one at the top of these lines in which the Caliph of Baghdad is represented attending a delegation of Christians. A scene that is pure fantasy on the part of the illustrator. To begin with, because it takes place abroad, instead of in some palatial room, and also because of that landscape they have nothing to do with the Iraqi landscape.
And it's not about descriptive drawings in the sense that we understand them, and their creators resorted to imagination whenever they needed it, in addition to the fact that they had obviously never been to Asia, neither in the Near East nor in the Far East.
That is why they are sometimes more interesting when they relate more concrete facts that are in turn described in Marco Polo's book. This is the case of another scene that represents the arrival at the Port of Hormuz.
The Port of Hormuz
This place is an island that lies between the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, opposite modern-day Iranian territory. Marco Polo's expedition stopped there on its way to China. It is also clear that Hormuz will be very different from the European aspect with which she is represented, but it is interesting to look at certain details of the illustration.
For example, you can see the camels on the shore, which according to Marco Polo were the means of transport used here for the goods that arrived at the port. Although an elephant also appears on the ship, an almost fantastic animal for the European public.
We must not forget that Marco Polo's vision is that of a merchant who travels to make his fortune, which is why descriptions abound of the resources that each place he visits possesses, as well as emphasizing the means of production or exploitation. And above all he extols the riches of certain territories and certain precious materials. In this line it is understood that his account of his travels is titledThe Book of Wonders, which already gives us an idea of his goal. And not only that, but sometimes it is so exaggerated that he became popularly known as "Il milione" in allusion to the fact that everything was counted by millions.