Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Drawing of the Day: The Corn Rose, 1680

Page from the Florilegium of Alexander Marshal
c. 1680
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The delicate drawing, dating to 1680, is the work of Alexander Marshal (c. 1620-82). Marshal was part of a league of “gentlemen gardeners” living in London in the Seventeenth Century. These gents looked to the cultivation of rare and exotic plants to learn about the workings of the natural world. They reveled, especially, in those plants which had been imported from the Near East and America at the start of the Seventeenth Century.

Marshal spent thirty years compiling a “florilegium” (flower book) which, in the end, contained 154 folios recording interesting and rare plants growing in the English gardens of his friends. Curiously, Marshal didn’t consider himself an artist, but his talent is evident. His florilegium is the only English flower book from the Seventeenth Century that survives. He never intended the folios to be sold or published, but rather, produced the book for the enjoyment and education of his friends.

King George IV was presented with the florilegium by an unknown party in the 1820s.

This leaf from the book features watercolors of three plants including: the Red Poppy (or Corn Rose), the Cockle and a Jacob's Ladder. The flowers are identified on the reverse.

Alexander Marshal, 1680
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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