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The Botanic Garden

Angels shall with their trumpets waken men, And fire shall change the world, these hence shall rise And change their gardens for a Paradise.

Tomb of John Tradescant the Elder (c.1570  – 1638) and John Tradescant the Younger (1608 – 62)
St Mary’s Church, Lambeth

Drawing and notes showing two seed heads from rushes

The seed-heads of two rushes, Leonardo da Vinci ©

Western Europe experienced an explosion of new plant material during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Within this period, twenty times more plants came under cultivation in Europe than in the previous two millennia, vastly enriching garden culture and transforming not only the appearance of the garden but also the ways in which the artist looked at and portrayed plants. Some new species were introduced from Africa and from the voyages of discovery to the New World. Other species arrived from the East after peace was established between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire in the mid-sixteenth century.

Scholars and plant collectors (known as ‘florists’) developed a fervent interest in the acclimatisation and cultivation of these non-native species. This led to the foundation of botanic gardens, the development of the science of botany and the birth of botanical illustration. Illustrated herbals proliferated and a new phenomenon, the ‘florilegium’, or flower book, became popular. The Dutch Republic was the centre of passionate new interest in plant studies, collecting and cultivation. In response, the Dutch school of flower painters developed a new genre, the floral still life.

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

Job's tears (Coix lachryma-jobi)

Alexander Marshal (c. 1620-82)


Italian School, early 17th century

Hyacinth, Hyacinthus Orientalis L.

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)

Ripe Pineapple with Dido Longwing Butterfly

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)

Grape Vine with Gaudy Sphinx Moth

Simon Verelst (1644-1721)

A Bunch of Grapes

British School, 17th century

Charles II Presented with a Pineapple

Andrew Moore (1640-1706)

Side table

Maria van Oosterwyck (Noorddorp 1630-Uitdam 1693)

Still Life with Flowers, Insects and a Shell

Daniel Seghers (Antwerp 1590-Antwerp 1661)

A Cartouche Embellished with a Garland of Flowers

Maria van Oosterwyck (Noorddorp 1630-Uitdam 1693)

Still Life with Flowers and Butterflies