[BERLÈSE] -- JUNG, Johann Jakob (1819-1844), artist. FIFTY ORIGINAL DRAWINGS OF CAMELLIAS in black lead, watercolour and bodycolour, with gum arabic, on vellum, illustrating Abbé Laurent Berlèse's monumental Iconographie du genre Camellia (Paris: -1843). A single flower specimen painted on each vellum sheet, signed 'JJJung' at lower left and with flower name written in a contemporary cursive hand in black ink at centre of lower margin; two plates only with flower name, added in ?later pencil, one plate with neither artist nor flower name; 2 plates with ?later pencil note concerning colour. All but one drawing corresponds to plates contained in the third volume of the published work (the penultimate drawing corresponds to a plate in vol. I); a complete list of flower names (with their published plate number) is available on request. (A little faint spotting.)
380 x 300mm. Brown morocco c. 1860s tooled in gilt and blind, bright pink watered silk liners with gilt fillet and ornament at corners, blind-rolled turn-ins, top edge gilt, interleaved with protective tissue, brown cloth protective folder (folder somewhat worn, tears in a few tissue sheets). Provenance: [Murten, near Berne, Loewenberg Castle (sale 1973; purchased by the present owner)].
The present album contains THE ONLY ORIGINAL DRAWINGS FOR THE ICONOGRAPHIE KNOWN TO SURVIVE. Drawn from nature, each watercolour is a portrait of an individual camellia grown in the 'most beautiful, the most rich, and the most admirable collection' of its day, that of the great camellia devoté, Abbé Berlèse (1784-1863). They depict the immensely rich and subtle colour and the delicate and full form of the flower, and the lush and luminous green of the leaves, characteristic of the camellia.
The German artist Johann Jakob Jung was a mere 19 years old when he began to paint the camellias in the private garden of Abbé Berlèse at Paris. He was already at work on the Iconographie in 1838, and on his election to the Société d'Horticulture at Paris on 2 January 1839 he presented to the society a watercolour of a camellia in the garden of his patron, which was praised for 'l'exactitude et la beauté d'exécution'. A commission of the Society was delegated to visit Berlèse's garden and it was so impressed by what it found -- numerous drawings already finished by Jung, as well as the garden itself -- that it immediately recommended publishing an Iconographie. The commission described Jung in its report of 17 April 1839 as a young painter of great talent, whose work merits a place alongside Redouté's Roses and Liliacées. Lavish praise continued to accompany Jung's work when further original watercolours from the Iconographie were exhibited in 1839 ('la rare perfection des aquarelles de M. Jung') and in 1840 ('une perfection qu'on n'avait pas encore atteinte dans les diverses tentatives entreprises pour reproduire les fleurs brillantes de cet beau genre'). Berlèse himself thanked Jung in the preface to the Iconographie for bringing to life the flowers through his great skill. Little is known of the artist after completing his work on the Iconographie. He no longer appears as a member of the Société in early 1844, and he died at Frankfurt in June that year, only 25 years of age. His early death shrouded his reputation (Thieme-Becker lists only 3 paintings of religious or historical subjects and does not mention his work on the Iconographie), and only through the re-appearance of these present drawings may he be rehabilitated to stand alongside the greatest botanical artists of the day. His own contemporaries at Paris compared him to Redouté, a comparison which cannot have been made lightly since Redouté was alive and active in the same circles. Loudon's sniffy suggestion that Jung's camellias were no better than Chandler's is nothing more than nationalist chauvinism, as even a quick comparison proves.
Jung's drawings, through their publication in the Iconographie, both established and enjoyed the great vogue for camellias in the middle decades of the 19th century. The camellia was introduced to Europe from China about 1700 and named by Linnaeus in 1735 after the Moravian Jesuit botanist, George Joseph Kamel. There were passionate collectors of camellias such as Berlèse from the 1810s (Curtis's Monograph on the Genus Camellia, illustrated with 5 plates by Clara Maria Pope, was published in 1819), and the 1830s saw a sharp increase in widespread interest in the genus. In 1831 Booth and Chandler's Illustrations and Descriptions of the Camellia appeared; in 1837 the first edition of Berlèse's Monographie du genre camellia (quickly followed by second and third editions); and in 1840 at Brussels the Collection de cent espèces ou variétés du genre Camellia, illustrated by Mme. G. Fontaine, a student of Redouté, to name a few. Suddenly no dandy could venture into public without sporting a camellia in his button hole, and no Parisian ball could be complete without masses of the flower. In 1842 it was reported that the price of camellias fluctuated more extremely than the stock market, corresponding directly to the number of parties and balls being held. In the morning a dozen might sell for 5 or 6 francs but by evening they would sell for 30 francs, if they could even be found. Dumas reflected the vogue in his La Dame aux Camellias (1848), which was in turn immortalised in Verdi's La Traviata: the heroine's love for camellias so typifies her that a constant supply is brought to her tomb after her death. The tomb at Montmartre of Dumas's original 'Dame aux Camellias', Maria Duplessis, is still adorned today with a sculpted bouquet of camellias.
Of the 530 types of camellia Berlèse had in his garden in 1839, he chose 300 to illustrate the Iconographie. The present 50 drawings are the only ones known to survive. According to the Annales de la Société d'Horticulture de Paris, the idea of an Iconographie du genre camellia was born in early 1839, after Berlèse had engaged Jung. Therefore Jung was first commissioned to paint the flowers in Berlèse's garden for Berlèse's own pleasure, as a personal luxury, in the tradition of earlier wealthy patrons such as Barthold Moller, a mayor or Hamburg, who commissioned a 5-volume album of original drawings on vellum from the artist Hans Simon Holtzbecker in the 1660s (one of two surviving volumes sold in these rooms 17 March 1999, lot 17). It also explains the luxury and refinement of Jung's watercolours; they are not merely working drawings made for publication. That they then served for reproduction in copper-engraving (lithography was abandoned after the first 50 plates) is clear; they certainly would have served as a guide to the colourists. Berlèse promised as special enticement for early subscribers that the artist himself would colour the first fascicule (of 2 plates) for the first 150 subscribers, thereafter they would be finished by highly skilled colourists. A few of the vellum sheets have pencilled annotations on colour ('plus foncé) which presumably were added for the benefit of the colourists.
Quotations above are taken from the Annales de la Société d'Horticulture, 1839-1844. Bibliographical references for the published work: Nissen BBI 150; Dunthorne 30; Great Flower Books p.50.