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  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Rome (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1640 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Leonardi, Vincenzo (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and bodycolour with gum heightening over black chalk

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with support from the Gaster Fund and the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of Mr and Mrs Moross

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Paintings, Room 88a, The Edwin and Susan Davies Galleries

This watercolour is part of the 'Paper Museum' assembled by the 17th-century Roman antiquarian and collector Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657). This was a vast visual encyclopaedia of the ancient and natural worlds, consisting of thousands of drawings and prints. Of roughly 7000 surviving drawings from the Paper Museum, around 2500 are of natural history subjects, including fruit and plants.

Cassiano was a member of Europe's first modern scientific academy, the prestigious Accademia dei Lincei, established in Rome in 1603 - half a century before either the Royal Society in London or the Académie des Sciences in Paris. The Accademia, which numbered Galileo amongst its members, placed great emphasis on observation as the key to unravelling the mysteries of nature.

For his Paper Museum Cassiano commissioned artists to make drawings directly from specimens; the resulting works were intended to be clear and objective scientific records. Little is known about these artists, due to the documentary bias of the visual encyclopaedia. However, many of the drawings are attributed on stylistic grounds to Vincenzo Leonardi, who was often employed by Cassiano.

Cassiano was particularly interested in abnormality, both in animals and plants, and commissioned numerous watercolours of misshapen fruits; his interest was based on the belief that a study of abnormality could result in a greater understanding of normal growth. The deformity in this citron is caused by the action of a mite on the bud of the flower. At the time, however, this was not known; one explanation of the digitated, or 'fingered', appearance of this fruit involved the tragic transformation of a mythical youth into a citrus tree.

This watercolour was used as a preparatory study for the Malum citreum digitatum seu multiformewhich was illustrated in the Hesperides, a treatise on the cultivation of citrus fruit by Giovanni Battista Ferrari, published in 1646.

Physical description

Watercolour of misshapen citron

Place of Origin

Rome (painted)


ca. 1640 (painted)


Leonardi, Vincenzo (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and bodycolour with gum heightening over black chalk

Marks and inscriptions

Number 60 inscribed in pen and ink, lower right-hand side of sheet


Height: 24.2 cm estimate, Width: 26.3 cm estimate

Object history note

Commissioned by Cassiano dal Pozzo; from whose heirs purchased by Pope Clement XI, 1703; his nephew, Alessandro Albani, 1714; from whom purchased by George III, 1762; by descent to George V. Sold, with many other drawings from the Paper Museum, from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle in the 1920s.

The London dealer Jacob Mendelson acquired many of these works and sold a large group to Sir Rex Nan Kivell who was then a partner in the Redfern Galleries. The art dealer Peter Cochrane had worked at the Redfern Galleries in the 1930s and knew Nan Kivell, from whom he presumably acquired this watercolour in the early 1950s.

Purchased from the estate of Peter Cochrane with E.427-2009 and E.428-2009, 2009.

Descriptive line

Watercolour of a misshapen or 'digitated' citron attributed to Vincenzo Leonardi (fl.1621-46) from the 'Paper Museum' of Cassiano dal Pozzo; ca. 1640

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

David Freedberg and Enrico Baldini, The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo: Citrus Fruit (London: The Royal Collection in association with Harvey Miller Publishers, 1997), no. 72
D. Freedberg, 'Cassiano dal Pozzo's Drawings of Citrus Fruits', Quaderni puteani, 1, p. 34
D. Freedberg, 'From hebrew and Gardens to Oranges and Lemons: Giovanni Battista Ferrari and Cassiano dal Pozzo' in Cassiano dal Pozzo. Atti del seminario internazionale di studi. Napoli 18-19 decembre 1987, F. Solinas ed., Rome, 1989, p. 55-57, pl. 20-21.

Labels and date

Probably by Vincenzo Leonardi active 1621-46
Digitated Citron (Citrus medica L.)
About 1640

The antiquarian and collector Cassiano dal Pozzo commissioned many drawings of misshapen fruits for his 'paper museum'. He saw abnormality as a key to the better understanding of normal growth. This watercolour was used as a preparatory study for a misshapen fruit illustrated in Giovanni Battista Ferrari's 1646 treatise on citrus fruits entitled 'Hesperides'.

Watercolour and bodycolour
Purchased with support from the Gaster Fund and the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of Mr and Mrs Moross
V&A: E.426-2009 [2011]


Watercolour; Bodycolour; Black chalk


Drawn; Painted

Subjects depicted

Lemon (fruit); Deformity; Grotesque; Encyclopaedia




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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