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Watercolour - A Common Mallow and a Damselfly; Snowdrops with a Lady Butterfly
  • A Common Mallow and a Damselfly
    Le Moyne de Morgues, Jacques, born 1533 - died 1588
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A Common Mallow and a Damselfly; Snowdrops with a Lady Butterfly

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    France

  • Date:

    ca. 1575 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    watercolour and bodycolour on paper

  • Museum number:

    AM.3267H-1856

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case DP, shelf 25

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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 the pages are double-sided like the present one. Dated around 1575, the present work shows a common mallow and a damselfly on the recto with snowdrop with a lady butterfly on the verso. Although Lemoyne has long been considered 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

A Common Mallow and a Damselfly on the recto: the flowers are bright pink striped with red with whitish stamens while the damselfly as a grey and black body and black wings shading to grey at the tips and base; Snowdrop with a lady Butterfly on the verso: the flowers are white, the inner segments of the perianth green- tipped outside, green inside, with white longitudinal lines and white edges. The seed vessels are green, while the Lady butterfly's wings are patterned in orange and black, with white spots near the apex of the fore wings. The body is black, striped with yellow.

Place of Origin

France

Date

ca. 1575 (painted)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

watercolour and bodycolour on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed on the right hand-side 'Flag fly' and numbered '13' on the top right corner, in brown ink, on the recto

Inscribed 'painted Lady outside' on the left hand-side and numbered '14' on the top right corner, in brown ink, on the verso.

Dimensions

Height: 10.75 in, Width: 7.50 in

Object history note

Purchased in 1856 (Lugt 2503). No record of previous history.

Historical context note

The present drawing belongs to an album of 59 botanical watercolours depicted on 33 sheets of paper, some of these being double-sided like the present one, and attributed to Jacques Lemoyne de Morgues. The present work shows a common mallow and a damselfly on the recto with a snowdrop with a lady butterfly on the verso.

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 Common Mallow and a Damselfly on the recto with a Snowdrop with a lady Butterfly on the verso, attributed to Jacques Lemoyne de Morgues, French school, ca. 1575

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

Paul Hulton, The Work of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, A Huguenot Artist in France, Florida and England, vol. I, London, 1977, p. 157 The following is the full text of the entry: 8.Recto. Mallow and Damselfly Plate 21d Common Mallow, Malva sylvestris L. The flowers are bright pink striped with red with whitish stamens. The Damselfly, Agrion splendens (Harris), has a grey and black body and black wings shading to grey at the tips and base. Watercolours and bodycolours; 272 x 184 mm; 10 ⅝ x 7 ¼ in. Inscribed above the fly, Flag fly, and numbered 13. AM.3267H-1856 LITERATURE: Savage (1923). The design is very close, but in reverse, to H.F. , no. 11 (pl. 142d) and similar in many details to the B.M. drawing (no 63., pl. 42c). Verso. Snowdrop and Painted Lady Butterfly Plate 22a Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis L. The flowers are white, the inner segments of the perianth green-tipped outside, green inside, with white longitudinal lines and white edges. The seed vessels are green. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui (L.), seen from above. The wings are patterned in orange and black, with white spots near the apex of the fore wings. The body is black, striped with yellow. Watercolours and bodycolours with pencil outlines visible. Inscribed above the butterfly, Painted Lady outside and numbered 14. LITERATURE: Savage (1922), (1923).
Spencer Savage, ‘The discovery of some of Jacques Le Moyne’s botanical drawings’ in The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 3rd s., vol. LXXI (1922)
Spencer Savage, ‘Early botanical painters. No. 3. – Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues’ in The Gardeners’ Chronicle, 3rd s., vol. LXXIII (1923)
Lionel Lambourne, Portraits of Plants: Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533- 1588), London (undated)

Exhibition History

Water into Art: British Watercolours from the V&A 1750-1950 (Shenhzen Museum, China 9 August 2012-11 November 2012)

Materials

Gouache; Water-colour

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Insects; Butterfly

Collection code

PDP

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Qr_O25905
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