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Watercolour - Strawberry and Emperor Moth
  • Strawberry and Emperor Moth
    Le Moyne de Morgues, Jacques, born 1533 - died 1588
  • Enlarge image

Strawberry and Emperor Moth

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1568-1572 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Le Moyne de Morgues, Jacques, born 1533 - died 1588 (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and body-colour on laid paper

  • Museum number:

    AM.3267BB-1856

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case TOPIC, shelf DP3

This drawing belongs to an album of 59 botanical watercolours on paper attributed to the Huguenot artist Jacques Lemoyne de Morgues (1533-88). Some of these are double sided although the present one is single-sided and shows a wild strawberry and a female Emperor moth. Dated around 1575, the present work shows a daisy and a Lady butterfly on the recto, with pink roses on the verso. Although Lemoyne has been long known as an obscure artist providing designs for simple woodcuts, his botanical watercolours which were rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century have earned him a place in history as one of the most remarkable early botanical painters.

Physical description

Botanical illustration of a strawberry plant with several strawberries and an Emperor moth.

Place of Origin

France (probably, painted)

Date

ca. 1568-1572 (painted)

Artist/maker

Le Moyne de Morgues, Jacques, born 1533 - died 1588 (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and body-colour on laid paper

Marks and inscriptions

Female Emperor Moth
Written in pencil in the top righthand corner of the image

49
Written in ink in top righthand corner of the image

Dimensions

Height: 27.5 cm, Width: 18.8 cm

Object history note

Purchased in 1856.

Historical context note

The present drawing belongs to an album of 59 botanical watercolours depicted on 33 sheets, some being double-sided, and attributed to Jacques Lemoyne de Morgues. The present sheet shows a wild strawberry and a female Emperor moth.

The drawings from this series were acquired in 1856 as one of the first purchases of the V&A, almost by accident, and solely because they were bound up in an extremely fine French late-16th-century brown calf binding.

Although Lemoyne has been long considered as an obscure artist providing designs for simple woodcuts, he was recognised at the beginning of the 20th century as one of the most remarkable early botanical painters.

The V&A binding and the inscriptions on the drawings in both French and Latin suggest that the series was probably made in France around 1575. Lemoyne left the Continent to London where he settled shortly before1580. The V&A album can be compared with another album, reputed to have been made around 1585 in England, and now in the British Museum.

Another group of 27 sheets stylistically close and on similar paper to the V&A watercolours appeared on the market in 2004, followed by a bound florilegium with eighty drawings in an 18th-century French mottled calf gilt and lettered ‘anno 1770’ in 2005.(See Sotheby's, New York, 21 January 2004, lots 29-55 and Sotheby's, New York, 26 January 2005, lot 46.) A highly finished group of six gouaches on vellum on blue and gold background were sold from the Korner collection in 1997 (Sotheby's, New York, January 29, 1997, lots 55-60).

The interest in plants for their medicinal properties and religious symbolism was well anchored since the Middle Ages in Western Europe. A great number of manuscripts were beautifully illuminated with flowers and plants, echoing an interest that goes back to the Antiquity. However this impressive album of botanical watercolours shows a renewed curiosity for the flora from both a scientific and an aesthetic point of view.

In this respect, Lemoyne de Morgues’ representations of plants and insects, which show a particular attention to details and a great sense of realism, can be seen as a forerunner of such projects as the Museum Chartaceum (Latin for ‘Paper Museum’), made by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657)who commissioned to minor and major artists a vast collection of drawings recording, among others, natural history subjects (see V&A E.731-1949 to E.735-1949, E.2776-1962 to E.2777-1962, E.426-2009 to E.428-2009, and E.1026-2011 – and also Royal Library, Windsor Castle, and British Museum, London).

Descriptive line

Watercolour, A Wild Strawberry and a Female Emperor Moth, attributed to Jacques Lemoyne de Morgues, French school, ca. 1575

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

Lionel Lambourne, Portraits of Plants: Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533-1588), London (undated)
Gill Saunders, Picturing Plants: An Analytical History of Botanical Illustration, London, 1995, p.50, ill. in colour.
Paul Hulton, The Work of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, A Huguenot Artist in France, Florida and England, vol. I, London, 1977, p. 161

The following is the full text of the entry:

27. Stawberry and Emperor Moth
Plate 30d

Wild Strawberry, Fragaria vesca L. The fruits are various shades of pink, the calyces light green, the flowers white shaded with grey. Female Emperor Moth, Saturnia pavonia (L.), seen from beneath. The wings are brownish grey, darkened with fine hairs, with a broad band of dense brown towards the rear edges, the spots black surrounded by light brown, white and pink. The body is brown.

Watercolours and bodycolours, with some oxidisation at the right tip of the wings, 265 x 169 mm (sight); 10 ⅜ x 6 ⅝ in.

Inscribed above the moth, Female Emperor Moth and numbered 49.

AM.3267BB-1856

LITERATURE: Savage (1923); V&A postcard (in colour), E. 27.

The form of the plant follows closely, though not exactly, and partly in reverse, the illustration in Fuchs, De historia stirpium (1542), p. 853.

Spencer Savage, ‘Early botanical painters. No. 3. – Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues’ in The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 3rd s., vol. LXXIII (1923)

Labels and date

Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues about 1533-88
Wild Strawberry and Female Emperor Moth
('Fragaria vesca' and 'Saturnia pavonia')
About 1575

Some of Le Moyne's drawings are part of a network of copying. The sinuous form of this wild strawberry comes from an earlier illustration by the botanist Fuchs. Le Moyne reworked it in a later watercolour and again for a woodcut in his pattern book 'La Clef des Champs' (1586.

Probably France
Watercolour and bodycolour
V&A: AM.3267.bb-1856 []

Materials

Water-colour; Gouache; Laid paper

Subjects depicted

Strawberries; Moth

Categories

ELISE; Gardens & Gardening; Science

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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