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The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo

A watercolour of a Peony, from the family Ranunculaceae; mounted in a Cassiano mount type D. The drawing shows the roots and a single flower with large pink petals. The roots drawn on a separate sheet of paper cut out and stuck on.

This drawing is one

Peony, 'Paeonia mascula' (L.) Mill. with the root of 'Paeonia officinalis' L. ©

Cassiano dal Pozzo (1583-1657) was secretary to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, and he played an important role in the cultural life of Baroque Rome. He was a member of one of the earliest scientific academies in Europe, the Accademia dei Lincei, which emphasised direct visual observation as the key to unravelling the mysteries of nature. Over many years Cassiano assembled thousands of drawings and prints recording the natural world as part of his Paper Museum, alongside drawings of antiquities and architecture.

Cassiano did not produce the drawings himself; instead he commissioned artists to make meticulous studies of geological specimens, plants, fruit and vegetables, fungi, birds, fish and other animals, some of which were made with the newly-invented microscope. Most of these artists are unknown to us, but one, Vincenzo Leonardi, seems to have worked as Cassiano’s collaborator for many years. Many of the drawings here show their subject at actual size, and several present more than one view of the specimen.

Cassiano’s Paper Museum was acquired by George III in 1762.

Attributed to Vincenzo Leonardi (1589/90-1646)

Pummelo: whole and half-fruit

Unidentified artist

African civet

Collection of Cassiano Dal Pozzo (1588-1657)

Common dolphin

Attributed to Vincenzo Leonardi (1589/90-1646)

Anatomical details of a common or crested porcupine

Attributed to Vincenzo Leonardi (1589/90-1646)

Noble pen shell

Attributed to Vincenzo Leonardi (1589/90-1646)

Deformed melon

Unidentified artist

Maned three-toed sloth

Unidentified artist

Gems, stones and amulets

Unidentified artist

Fruits, seeds and legumes

Unidentified artist

Deformed broccoli