Lemon and orange; Mulberry branch thumbnail 1
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Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H , Case WD, Shelf 231

Lemon and orange; Mulberry branch

ca. 1575 (painted)
Place of origin

Two sided sheet.
Recto: A whole orange, a halved orange, a whole lemon, and a halved lemon.
Verso: botanical illustration of a Mulberry branch with leaves and berries.

Object details

Object type
TitleLemon and orange; Mulberry branch
Materials and techniques
Water-colour and body-colours
Brief description
Watercolour, a lemon and orange on the recto; a mulberry twig on the verso, a sheet from a series of drawings of English flowers, fruits, etc., Jacques Le Moyne des Morgues, French school, ca. 1575
Physical description
Two sided sheet.
Recto: A whole orange, a halved orange, a whole lemon, and a halved lemon.
Verso: botanical illustration of a Mulberry branch with leaves and berries.
  • Estimate height: 24.2cm
  • Estimate width: 26.3cm
Dimensions taken from Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, C.M. Kauffmann, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1973
Marks and inscriptions
'39' (Numbered in ink)
Object history
Purchased in 1856 as part of a sketchbook bought for its 16th-century binding. In 1922, De Morgues's signature was discovered and the significance of the watercolours recognised. Following this, the 34 leaves with watercolours were extracted from the volume to be transferred to the Prints and Drawings department (now Museum nos. A.M.3267a – 3267hh-1856). The binding remained in the library.
Historical context
The present drawing belongs to an album of 59 botanical watercolours depicted on 34 sheets of paper and attributed to Jacques Lemoyne de Morgues.
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).
Subject depicted
Bibliographic references
  • Lambert, Susan. Drawing: Technique & Purpose. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1981. p.66.
  • Paul Hulton, The Work of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, A Huguenot Artist in France, Florida and England, vol. I, London, 1977, p. 160 The following is the full text of the entry: 22. Recto. Lemon and Orange Fruits Plate 28b Above, Lemon, Citrus limon (L.) Burman f. The skin of the whole fruit is greenish yellow, the flesh of the halved fruit whitish yellow, the skin gold. Below, Seville Orange, Citrus aurantium L. The skin is gold with rather red shading, the flesh pale brownish yellow. Watercolours and bodycolours; 274 x 186 mm; 10 ¾ x 7 ¼ in. Numbered 39. AM.3267W-1856 LITERATURE: Savage (1922), (1923). Verso. Mulberry Plate 28c Mulberry, Morus nigra, L. The upper two fruits are pale red, the lower two purplish red, touched with white. Watercolours and bodycolours. Numbered 40. LITERATURE: Savage (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)
  • Gill Saunders, 100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1985, p.46.
  • Paul Hulton, The Work of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, A Huguenot Artist in France, Florida and England, vol. I, London, 1977, p. 156 The following is the full text of the entry: 2. Recto. Daisy and Painted Lady Butterfly Plate 19 b Double Daisy, Bellis perennis L., var. hortensis L. The flowers are pink, deeper towards the yellowish centre. The Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui (L.), seen from beneath. The wings are mottled in brown and white, deeper brown on the forward edges, the body is dark grey. Watercolours and bodycolours; 274 x 183 mm; 10 ¾ x 7 ⅛ in. Inscribed above the butterfly, The painted Lady revers’d and numbered 3. AM.3267B-1856. LITERATURE: Savage (1922), (1923). Verso. Species Rose Plate 19 c Rose, Rosa sp. The flowers are pink, paler towards the outer edges, showing yellow stamens. Watercolours touched with bodycolours. Numbered 4. LITERATURE: Savage (1922), (1923) as ‘Rosa sp.’
  • Lambourne, L., Portraits of Plants, London: V&A, 1984.
  • FOR A RECONSTRUCTION OF THE SKETCHBOOK, SEE https://web.archive.org/web/20230424123753/https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-botanical-album-of-jacques-le-moyne-de-morgues
  • Bindings in NAL: https://web.archive.org/web/20230424123626/https://nal-vam.on.worldcat.org/oclc/1008049857
Other number
AM.3267W-1856 - Incorrect number
Accession number

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Record createdMarch 3, 2000
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