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Amsterdam Tulip Museum

Emanuele Sweerts 17th Century "Florilegium" Print - Plate 55

Emanuele Sweerts 17th Century "Florilegium" Print - Plate 55

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Ranunculus caltha palustris flore áurea, venís, pleno flore alba, caltha palustris plena, glomerats flore luto, hortensis luteo pleno flore ramosos.

Unique offering: 17th Century copper plate print on lined paper (fleur-de-lis Strasbourg bend watermark) beautifully, vibrantly and accurately colorized. Authenticated as deaccessioned from the Amsterdam Tulip Museum Collection. This copper plate engraving of Ranunculus on lined paper comes from a late edition of Emanuel Sweert’s Florilegium, a fine collection of early 17th-century flower illustrations. The two-part volume was first published in 1612 and reprinted several times due to its continued popularity. These engravings are from a later edition of the book and were deaccessioned from the Amsterdam Tulip Museum when they acquired a complete 1641 edition.

Emanuel Sweert (1552–1612) was an accomplished draughtsman, horticulturalist, and businessman. He amassed and sold exotic curiosities, including stuffed animals, seashells, minerals, and botanical specimens, at his shop in Amsterdam and the Frankfurt fair. Sweert helped collectors and connoisseurs, among them wealthy European merchants, aristocrats, and princes, fill their Wunderkammern, or cabinets of natural curiosities, and display gardens. The Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, Sweert’s most notable patron, purchased floral stock from him for his court gardens in Prague and Vienna and commissioned the Florilegium’s engraving and publication. Since Sweert’s illustrations of flowers functioned as records of the bulbs and plants he sold, his Florilegium became Europe’s first nursery catalogue.

Sweert proclaimed in his title page that the Florilegium was unparalleled, describing it as the “largest and most selective, entirely unique, of great size, with different species of flowers varied and most outstanding, of ones never shown before, but even rare species described to the highest degree possible.” In each illustration, the artist pays careful attention to botanic specificity, usually including leaves and roots or bulbs. Identification of the origin and color of each specimen is provided in the Latin descriptions engraved into each plate and supplemented by Sweert’s commentary, found in the preface. On the bottom register of the title page, Sweert included engraved portrait medallions of his botanical role models from Leiden University, Carolus Clusius (1526-1609), prefect of the Botanical Garden, and Rembert Dodoneus (1517-1598), botanist and Leiden professor. By acknowledging his debt to these forefathers, Sweert asserted that his enterprise was rooted in natural history, as well as art and commerce. Likewise, his claim that his drawings were made ad vivum, or “from life,” supports the faithfulness of his representations, even though many of the plates are copied from other recognizable sources, particularly de Bry’s Icones Plantarum (1611).

After its use as a catalogue ended, the Florilegium remained popular because of the beauty of its floral engravings. The hunger for new flower varieties grew throughout the seventeenth century, especially for the tulip, which peaked during the frenzied Tulip Mania of 1636–37. This continued interest resulted in several reprints of the Florilegium, including 1620, 1631, 1641, 1647, and 1655.

This collection of copper plate engravings is attributed to a late edition of Sweert’s Florilegium. The title page states that the edition was published by Frederick de Wit (1629/30-1706), a prominent cartographer and publisher in Amsterdam, active in second half of the seventeenth century. The antique laid paper also suggests a date toward the last quarter of the century. The sheets measure about 16 1/2 x 10 1/4 inches and the plates have left strong impressions, varying from 12 1⁄4 x 8 to 13 1⁄2 x 8 1⁄4 inches. Centered between the 9 or 10 vertical chain lines on each sheet, one of two watermarks can be seen. The title page and many plates contain a mark with a fleur-de-lis atop a shield, bearing two leftward diagonal bands, known as a Strasbourg bend.

While variations of this mark were used commonly by paper makers throughout the 16th–19th centuries in Holland, France, and England, scholars believe this version originated in the French city of Strasbourg in 1675. The “P/v/L” countermark, found on plates 22(II), 26(II), 38, 41, 49 and 64, allows us to narrow down the date of this paper’s production. This monogram belonged to papermaker Pieter van der Ley, whose manufactory in the Dutch town of Wormerveer was active from 1665–1765.

The historical significance of these black and white engravings has been enlivened by the contemporary hand-coloring of Meghan Pennisi. A studio artist, adept at watercolor botanical illustration, Meghan is also an art historian, specializing in early 17th-century flower painting. Meghan holds a PhD in Art History from Northwestern University and wrote her dissertation on the early 17th-century Dutch flower still-life painter Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573– 1621). Meghan’s professional and academic experience has provided her extensive first-hand knowledge of old master works on paper and valuable access to print collections and archives throughout the United States and Europe. Her career in the art world spans three decades and includes work for an art dealer, fine art appraiser, leading auction house, and several major art museums. While pursuing her path as an art historian, Meghan has continued her work as a studio artist, specializing in highly naturalistic illustrations of flowers and insects.

During Meghan’s research into the history of early modern flower painting, gardening, botany, and the market for both art and flowers, she recognized Sweert’s Florilegium as an exceptional example of the intersection of these disciplines. Sweert paid great attention to the botanical specificity of the flowers he illustrated. While undertaking this colorization project, Meghan worked methodically to choose colors and textures faithful to Sweert’s designs. First, she consulted examples of previously painted plates from the Florilegium and other early modern illustrations of the same flowers. Next, she read Sweert’s commentary, which usually identifies the botanical names, colors and origins of each specimen, and carefully translated the Latin captions within each plate, which reveal further descriptions and color notes. Previous colorists of Sweert have often ignored these details. Finally, with this knowledge, Meghan identified modern photographs that best approximate the varieties and colors of each flower depicted, in her best judgement. These became the models that stood in for the ad vivum flowers.

Meghan’s combination of subject matter expertise, historical research skill, technical proficiency in watercolor, and an enduring passion for art and flowers enabled her to colorize these plates in an artistically sound manner historically consistent with the original prints and faithful to natural science. The result is a very unique offering available to a discerning buyer.

A Book of Flowers
The largest and most selective, entirely unique,
of great size, with different species of flowers varied and most outstanding, of ones never shown before, but even rare species described to the highest degree possible, species of Indian (New World) plants and the appearance of their roots, from life, in two parts, even in four languages,
are presented and detailed.

By the author
Emanuel Sweert Zevenbergen Netherlands
With the favor and special right of his Majesty the Holy Roman Emperor

in the presence of Frederick de Wit
under the seal of the White Map
Carolus Clusius                                                                   Rembert Dodoneus

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