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FLORILEGIUM -- Manuscript Flower Book containing 398 drawings of flowers in watercolour and bodycolour, occasionally with black chalk sketching still visible, on paper, arranged by genus on 233
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FLORILEGIUM -- Manuscript Flower Book containing 398 drawings of flowers in watercolour and bodycolour, occasionally with black chalk sketching still visible, on paper, arranged by genus on 233 leaves, drawings on rectos only; first leaf headed "De Place" and the final leaf initialed "P.A"(?), both in a contemporary hand, contemporary numbering in pencil of each flower at the base of the stem, the numbering consecutive within flower groups, later pencilled foliation. (3 very light stains presumably from paper leaves previously laid in.) 2° (384 x 250mm), contemporary German (or Dutch) red morocco panelled in gilt, gilt spine, remains of 2 silk fore-edge ties, g.e. (corners bumped, very slightly rubbed), [Germany: ca. 1660-1670].\n\nA FINE EXAMPLE OF A 17TH-CENTURY GERMAN FLORILEGIUM. The 398 drawings are of high quality, exhibiting accomplished and sensitive artistic skill and executed in strong, bright colours; they remain in a very fresh condition within an attractive contemporary binding. The artist, whose initials on the final leaf may be read "P.A.", has not been identified, but the work may be placed within the tradition of flower cultivation and flower painting, which reached its apogee in the 17th century.\n\nBy the end of the 16th century the depiction of plants and flowers had evolved from the utilitarian to the artistic. Works of previous eras were devoted to plants as culinary or medical material or as religious symbols. With the introduction in the 16th century of exotic plants, such as the tulip from Asia Minor, a fashion grew for the cultivation of such species and led to a flower-mania in the beginning of the 17th century. Gardens for pleasure were established by many noble or wealthy families across Europe. In Germany it was primarily through the work of Joachim Camerarius the younger, whose manuscript flower book of ca.1589 was sold in these rooms in May 1992, and the record of Johann Conrad von Gemmingen's garden in the Hortus Eystettensis in 1613, that established magnificent ornamental gardens as an attribute of prestige and status.\n\nThe profusion of flowers depicted in the present album, together with the high quality of the drawings, suggests that it represents a pictorial record of a single garden. It would have been a garden of significant size and sophistication, owned by someone of high status. We have been unable to discover who the owner was, but any number of German princes could have had such a garden at this time. The album includes 25 irises, 17 daffodils, 16 roses, 13 lilies, 13 hyacinths, 10 crocuses, 9 auriculas, and 100 tulips. The tulips in particular, because of rapidly changing fashions for various types, allow one to date the album to about 1660-70; the tulips here represent the transition from varieties popular in the tulip-mania of the 1630s to the large, global and blunt Baguettes of the 18th century. The style of painting, its precision and artistically curled leaves further confirms the dating. These aspects, plus the parallel lines, the coloring, and the arrangement on the page, are also indicative of German work. Among the flowers are 9 examples of terata, multi-headed oddities which could occur in nature or, more likely here, be artificially engineered. The high number present also would be in keeping with dating the album to the second half of the 17th century, when the popularity of such freaks was strong, and it indicates a particular penchant for them by the owner and accomplishment in cultivation on behalf of the gardener. As Nicolas Barker observed (Hortus Eystettensis 1994, p.29), the possession of a drawing of an exotic flower could be as valuable as the possession of the actual object, and so a flower album commissioned by an owner conferred prestige equal to the ownership of the gardens depicted in it.\n\nThe present Florilegium is unusual in its large size and clean images. There are no contemporary MS. identifications of the flowers as are frequently found, but each flower is numbered at the base of its stem. This suggests that a key identifying the flowers may have existed, written separately to preserve the beauty of the drawing on the page. A precedent for such a key exists in a manuscript flower album to be sold by Christie's in Amsterdam on 13 November 1995. It is a Dutch album recording flowers offered in an auction of bulbs and seeds at Alkmaar ca.1630-37, and the accompanying key records the prices realized. The potential existence of a key to the present flower album raises the possibility that it is a nurseryman's album recording available stock, similar to that prepared by Sweert, recording flowers offered by him at the important Frankfurt fair in the early 17th century or by Furber in the 18th. At this time, however, German dealers in these flowers were still uncommon, with men such as Johann Conrad von Gemmingen often obtaining their specimens through Dutch dealers. The German origin of the album is evident in the style of the drawings and in the few later pencilled MS. identifications. The paper is watermarked with 2 styles of Strassburg Lily which are similar to, but not identical with, Piccard 1323 and 1328, used in Frankfurt am Main from 1632 and Heidelberg from 1645, respectively.\n\nExhibited: Amsterdam, Nieuwe Kerk, De Tulip en de Kunst, 1994: no.A7, fig.15 p.83, catalogue by Dr. Sam Segal.\n\nWe are to grateful to Dr. Segal and others for offering advice in connection with this album.
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