One of sixty drawings by Hoefnagel used by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg to illustrate their Civitates Orbis Terrarum, a compendium of views, plans and notices on the cities of the world published in five volumes between 1572 and 1598, with an additional volume in 1617. The finished work illustrated 546 cities in Europe, Asia, Africa and Mexico. The plan for the work was conceived by Braun and Hogenberg in the late 1560s, and was intended to be complementary to the other great cartographical monuments of the 16th Century, Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern world atlas, and Lucas Jansz. Waghenaer's Spieghel der Zeevaerdt, the first printed marine atlas. Figures were included, slightly out of scale, in the foreground of the images to illustrate local costume, but also with an ulterior motive. Braun, concerned that the Turks might use the atlas on their campaigns in Europe, rather naively hoped that the Muslim prescription against images of the human form might dissuade them from consulting the work.
Hoefnagel was not initially involved in the project but soon became the leading artistic contributor. The son of a wealthy Antwerp diamond merchant, he travelled incessantly as a young man and developed his skills by recording the world through which he passed, building up a collection of views which were to provide material for the Civitates. Between 1561 and 1567 he was in France and Spain, spending a considerable period of time in Andalucia where he may have represented his father's interests. The present drawing was almost certainly drawn in 1561, in his first trip through France, at the same time as the general view of Poitiers and the view of the ancient standing stones outside the city which appear on the same plate in the Civitates, signed and dated in that year. The drawing for the general view of Poitiers, likewise dated 1561, is in the Albertina, as are nineteen other views also used for the Civitates (A. Stix and O. Benesch, Die Zeichnungen der Niederländischen Schulen des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, 1928, nos. 319-338). The exact location of the present view is open to discussion. There appears to be no town named Montherri or Mont Henri in the immediate neighbourhood of Poitiers, while the nearest likely candidate was only named Henrichemont by Sully in honour of King Henry IV in 1608, eleven years after the publication of the print. A.E. Popham suggested Montlhéry, to the south of Paris, although the topography does not seem to fit (A.E. Popham, 'Georg Hoefnagel and the Civitates Orbis Terrarum, Maso Finiguerra, I, 1936, p. 185).
Hoefnagel was in England in 1567-68, and made a number of drawings including the great View of Nonsuch Palace now in a private collection (The Treasure Houses of Britain, exhib. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1986, no. 342). On his return to Antwerp he may have taken lessons with Hans Bol. Following the Spanish sack of the city in 1576, he set off for Italy in the company of the cartographer Abraham Ortelius, and began systematically to produce views which were engraved for the Civitates. In addition to supplying his own drawings, Hoefnagel solicited views from other artists which he adapted into suitable material for the atlas, as for example his reworking of a view of Linz, now in the Albertina, which is derived from Lucas van Valckenborch's view of the town (The Age of Brueghel: Netherlandish Drawings in the Sixteenth Century, exhib. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, and elsewhere, 1987, no. 74 and p. 202, fig. 1).
Hogenberg explained the appeal of the Civitates in his introduction to Book III: 'What could be more pleasant than, in one's own home far from all danger, to gaze in these books at the universal form of the earth ... adorned with the splendour of cities and fortresses and, by looking at the pictures and reading the texts accompanying them, to acquire knowledge which could scarcely be had but by long and difficult journeys?' (quoted by R.A. Skelton, in G. Braun and F. Hogenberg, Civitates Orbis Terrarum, 1572-1618, facsimile, ed. R.A. Skelton, Amsterdam, 1965, p. vii). A.E. Popham gives a rather more wistful view of the appeal for the modern viewer 'To turn over the pages of the Civitates and visualize Europe as a tract of almost unbroken but infinitely varied country, decorated but not defiled by human habitations and human activities, makes one resent even more bitterly the disfigurements of modern civilisation' (A.E. Popham, op. cit., p. 183).