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Watercolour - The Carline thistle

The Carline thistle

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:


  • Date:

    mid 17th century (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil and watercolour on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case EXP

This drawing was originally part of the Paper Museum, a collection of drawings assembled by the Italian scholar Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657) in order to form a visual encyclopaedia of the ancient and natural worlds. This drawing belongs to the natural history group and shows a carline thistle, a medicinal flower which can be found in central and southern Europe. Despite Cassiano dal Pozzo’s intentions the encyclopaedia was never published.

Physical description

A flower seen from the side, with five sessile lanceolate leaves with deeply toothed and lobed margins. At the apex of the short stem is a large flower head whose involucre is composed of elongated yellow scales forming a false corolla around the capitulum.The plant ends in a straight taproot with the branches.

Place of Origin



mid 17th century (made)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil and watercolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed in brown ink at the bottom 'Chameleone Bianco, è chiamato da Alcuni Carlina'
Numbered in brown ink on the right hand side of the stem '288'
'White Chameleone, called by some Carlina'


Height: 58.6 cm, Width: 44 cm

Object history note

From the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657); Helen de Beer, from whom purchased by the museum in 1949

Historical context note

This drawing was originally part of Cassiano dal Pozzo’s Museum Chartaceum (Latin for ‘Paper Museum’; now Windsor Castle, Royal Lib., and London, British Museum).
Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657) was a renowned scholar and patron who assembled a vast collection of paintings, medals and books but also drawings and in particular drawings of antiquities and natural history subjects.

The drawings were commissioned from major and minor artists, including Pietro da Cortona, Pietro Testa and Vincenzo Leonardi, as well as collected from other sources. Cassiano’s intention was to form a visual encyclopaedia of the ancient and natural worlds but his project was never published. A group of drawings were however reproduced in a number of books on natural history, and artists and scholars drew on its fund of images of the Classical world. (See other examples in the collection: E.2776-1962, E.426-2009 and E.1026-2011.)

The present drawing represents a carline thistle, a medicinal plant which grows in central and southern Europe. The name derives from Charlemagne, whose army was reputedly cured of plague by its use. The drawing was executed by an unknown artist, probably a minor artist, as it shows an evident lack of volume. It is a good example of a certain type of drawings included in the Paper Museum, which aim only at recording the shape and appearance of a plant rather than reaching a high degree of refinement.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, a Carline thistle, early to mid 17th century Italian school from the 'Paper Museum' of Cassiano dal Pozzo

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1949, London, 1961.
F. Garbari and L. Tomgiorgi Tomasi, Flora: the Erbario miniato and other drawings, vol. 2, London, 2007, cat. 218, fig. 218


Pencil; Watercolour; Paper




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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