Tulips thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E , Case MB7L, Shelf DP, Box 129

Tulips

Watercolour
ca 1650-70 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The 'Nassau Florilegium' was a manuscript florilegium compiled between ca 1650 and 1670 by Johann Jakob Walther. A florilegium is a decorative flower book, often associated with a particular garden, as in this example recording the plants in the garden at Idstein (near Frankfurt) created by the Count of Nassau. These books first appeared in the 17th century, when it became fashionable among the wealthy to collect and cultivate flowering plants, especially the exotic, rare and beautiful. Usually arranging plants by season, florilegia were catalogues of these living but ephemeral collections. They were also important sources of inspiration for floral motifs in the decorative arts. The 'Nassau Florilegium' was not published but exists as two volumes of watercolours (133 flower and fruit studies plus views of the gardens) in eighteenth-century bindings. There is a second version in the Bibliothèque National in Paris which has very similar but not identical plates dated 1652-65; a third copy consisting of 200 plates, formerly in Darmstadt Landesbibliothek, was destroyed during the Second World War.

This image of tulips demonstrates Walther's skill in decorative composition. Though the tulips are evidently 'arranged' to present a formal bouquet-style grouping, the natural habit of the plant is approximated.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on paper
Brief Description
Watercolour, Similacrum Scenographicum Celeberrimi Horti Itzeinensis, by Johann Jakob Walther, 1654
Physical Description
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
  • Sheet height: 600mm
  • Sheet width: 462mm
Gallery Label
Johann Jakob Walther about 1604-77 Tulips (Tulipa sp.) About 1650-70 Florilegia tend to show several varieties or colour variations of the same flower - above all the tulip. This plant was valued for its tendency to 'break' and produce bizarre new colour combinations. Here, the petals are painted in varied and beautiful stripes and flames, while the stems are arranged to present a bouquet-style grouping. Idstein Watercolour and bodycolour Plate from the 'Nassau Florilegium', vol.i V&A: 9174:31
Object history
The Castle of Idstein, in the Taunus, near Frankfort, was built between 1615 and 1630 for the Counts of Nassau but fell into disrepair during the latter part of the Thirty Years War. On his return from exile (ca 1649) Count Johannes restored the buildings, founded a picture gallery, and laid out a garden full of rare flowers. At the end of the garden he erected a summerhouse with a small octagonal pavilion or grotto to which a wing was added a few years later. The interior of the grotto was decorated with shells, fountains, etc. Above the door were painted the arms of Nassau, and on the remaining portion of the roof, the figures of gods and goddessses representing the Seven Planets.



Johann Walther of Strassburg, was employed to paint a record of the garden and the present volumes are the result. Having passed out of the hands of the Nassau family they were in the possession of John, 3rd Earl of Bute sometime between 1762, when he became a Knight of the Garter, and 1792 when he died, as is shown by the heraldic bookstamp on the outside cover of each volume. Bute, who was "passionately fond of botany" (see 'Dictionary of National Biography'), purchased, in 1763, an estate at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, where, in a house built for him by Robert Adam, he established a magnificent library. "Since then two fires have unfortunately occurred at Luton Hoo: one in 1771, when the library, including that purchased from the Duke of Argyll, perished; the other in 1843 when the house was destroyed, but the greater part of the pictures and books were saved. Bute also formed a botanic garden at Luton Hoo, but he subsequently removed his valuable collection of plants to Christ Church... Bute's collection of prints, a part of his library, and duplicates of his natural history collection were sold at his death (see catalogue of sales preserved in British Museum, press mark 1255, c.15.1-3)." ('Dictionary of National Biography'). A similar 'Florilegium' of more than 200 leaves was made by the painter himself, and is now in the Darmstadt Landesbibliothek (the Darmstadt copy was destroyed in the Second World War). A comparison of the two works shows the alterations which were carried out to the exterior and interior of the summerhouse. (Information supplied by Herr Rektor Ziemer).
Subjects depicted
Summary
The 'Nassau Florilegium' was a manuscript florilegium compiled between ca 1650 and 1670 by Johann Jakob Walther. A florilegium is a decorative flower book, often associated with a particular garden, as in this example recording the plants in the garden at Idstein (near Frankfurt) created by the Count of Nassau. These books first appeared in the 17th century, when it became fashionable among the wealthy to collect and cultivate flowering plants, especially the exotic, rare and beautiful. Usually arranging plants by season, florilegia were catalogues of these living but ephemeral collections. They were also important sources of inspiration for floral motifs in the decorative arts. The 'Nassau Florilegium' was not published but exists as two volumes of watercolours (133 flower and fruit studies plus views of the gardens) in eighteenth-century bindings. There is a second version in the Bibliothèque National in Paris which has very similar but not identical plates dated 1652-65; a third copy consisting of 200 plates, formerly in Darmstadt Landesbibliothek, was destroyed during the Second World War.



This image of tulips demonstrates Walther's skill in decorative composition. Though the tulips are evidently 'arranged' to present a formal bouquet-style grouping, the natural habit of the plant is approximated.
Bibliographic References
  • 'Picturing Plants: an analytical history of botanical illustration' by Gill Saunders; 1995; Zwemmer in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum; no.28, page 47 (illus.)
  • 'Picturing Plants: an analytical history of botanical illustration' by Gill Saunders; 2009; KWS Publishers in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum; no.28, page 47 (illus.)
Collection
Accession Number
9174:31

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record createdJune 30, 2009
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