A Brief History of Botanical Art 

More Florilegia

By Jutta Buck 

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 17, Issue 2


Florilegia continued to bloom in the early 17th century. They included the  Florilegium Novum (1611), by Johann Theodor de Bry (1562-1620), and the Florilegium (1612) of Emmanuel Sweerts (1552-1612).  

The Hortus Eystettensis, was published by Basilius Besler (1561-1629) at Eichstaett in 1613. At least six engravers worked in making the three hundred and seventy four plates in which are illustrated more than a thousand flowers for this monumental work. The beautiful and tastefully arranged plant illustrations, after drawings by Besler, together with the superb calligraphy of the plants’ Latin names are used to great effect.  

Perhaps the most celebrated florilegium ever created was the Hortus Floridus (1614) by Crispijn van de Passe (c.1590- 1670). A short text, originally in Latin, but soon translated into French, Dutch and English accompanies the charming illustrations. In many of de Passe’s plates the plants are shown growing in the soil, while butterflies, bees and other insects are buzzing among the flowers. Also occasionally included in the composition of the page is a little field mouse, a snail or other creatures moving about the fields.  

No less appealing is the Theatrum Florae, published in Paris in 1622, by Daniel Rabel (1578-1637). Some of the exceptional drawings for this volume have survived and are now at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.  

Then lastly, given the immense popularity of flowers, plants and floriculture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nurseries of that time actually employed artists to paint images of plants and flowers that were available for sale in their establishments. Surprisingly, a number of manuscript flower and bulb catalogues have survived. Of particular interest are the tulip albums with their sometimes glorious illustrations of the various species of bulbs imported from Turkey for the European market during the prevailing frenzy of the Tulipomania. In the Netherlands, for example, specialized tulip books were produced by well known artists like Ambrosius Bosschaert the Younger (1609-1645), Jacob Marrel (1614-1681), Anthony Claesz (c1607-1649) and Pieter Holsteyn the Younger (c1614-1687), to name but a few. 

  • Ancinitium, from Hortus Floridus of Crispijn van de Passe, 5.5x8”