The Fool’s Cap World Map is an enigma. Printed circa 1590, the artist and location of its publishing remain unknown.
The Latin script alludes to the artist as Epichtonius Cosmopolites; the words translate approximately as “Everyman Indigenous to Himself.”
“A strong legacy of the theme of the Fool exists in literature and popular art from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. The Fool was licensed to break rules, speak painful truths and mock power and pretension, and the grotesque shape he bore was a kind of living punishment. This frame of reference would have been quite familiar to the audience of this engraving in the 1590s. And people would have recognized in this map a radical visual interpretation of the Fool’s role: it is now the whole world that takes on the Fool’s costume, thus forcing the viewer to confront the possibility that the entire created order is irrational, alien and threatening.”
• Peter Whitfield, The Image of the World