Johann Prokop Mayer (1735-1804)
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Johann Prokop Mayer (1735-1804)

Johann Prokop Mayer (1735-1804)

ORIGINAL DRAWINGS AND MASTER PROOF PLATES for Pomona Franconica. Nuremberg: Adam Wolfgang and Johann Samuel Winterschmidt, 1776-1779-1801. 5 volumes. DRAWINGS: 407 original drawings by Joseph Schmitt and other artists, 3 signed by Johann Samuel Winterschmidt, on 196 sheets, in body colour, black chalk and ink on paper, depicting peaches, apricots, plums, medlar, azaroles, cherries, almonds, apples, pears, and their blossoms, including many section views. 87 drawings are finely executed in monochrome. Six fruit which occur in the printed edition are not represented here, but there are an additional 29 original drawings which do not appear in the printed edition: 22 of apples, 4 of peaches, 1 apricot, 1 cherry blossom and 1 azarole. The drawings are bound in 3 volumes (268 x 206mm) labelled Steinobst, Apfeln, and Birnen. MASTER PROOF PLATES: 272 proof plates coloured by hand to be used as masters for colouring the final engravings, 98 are lettered or partly lettered, the others are before letters; several are printed on the verso of uncoloured proofs. The proof plates primarily represent apples and pears (contained in the rare third volume of the Pomona), but some peaches, cherries and almonds are also present. The master proofs are bound separately in 2 volumes (232 x 187mm), with the exception of some almonds which are bound (three are loosely inserted) into the beginning of the Steinobst volume of original drawings. Many drawings and proof plates backed with blue paper and either mounted or on guards, 14 drawings folded. Annotated for publication with numerous captions and numbers erased, altered, and pasted over, a few drawings crossed through. (Occasional light soiling or staining on proof plates, erasures and deletions, a few sheets trimmed just affecting a stem, shadow, caption or leaf, rubbing or abrasion lightly affecting 4 images.) Early 20th-century vellum-backed embossed paper boards, flat spines, leather spine labels, red edges, bound by Karl Dettinger, court bookbinder at Stuttgart, with his stamp in one volume. Provenance: Nuremberg, Winterschmidt family, publishers of the Pomona Franconica and other works; two printed labels, one numbered '599'; Munich, Guido von Volckamer auf Kirchensittenbach (early 20th-century bookplate and inscription in one volume of drawings).

THE NEWLY DISCOVERED ORIGINAL DRAWINGS FOR THE FINEST SERIES OF GERMAN FRUIT ILLUSTRATIONS EVER PUBLISHED AND AN IMPORTANT ARCHIVAL RECORD OF THE MOST MAGNIFICENT ORCHARDS OF THE GERMAN ENLIGHTENMENT. These volumes contain the original drawings, vividly painted, and a substantial set of the master proof plates, for Johann Prokop Mayer's great pomona, Pomona Franconica, depicting the extensive and varied collection of fruit trees in the gardens of the Prince Bishop of Wrzburg, among the most lavish in Germany at the end of the 18th century. They are testament to the establishment of Wrzburg as a centre of horticultural excellence, and to Mayer's ambition to produce a work rivalling, if not surpassing, the great pomonas of France and England. The original drawings and master proofs offered here document the development of the Pomona Franconica from its inception as a manuscript pomona for a princely patron to the first comprehensive printed pomona of a garden in Germany; it was commended by the French Institute in 1805 for its excellence and contribution to science.

The gardens at Wrzburg reached their apogee under the enlightened Prince Bishop Adam Friedrich von Seinsheim and his head gardener Johann Prokop Mayer. Theirs proved to be a remarkable partnership. Mayer had experience of the most famous gardens in Europe, having worked in France at Choisy and Versailles and having visited England in pursuit of the most modern horticultural techniques, and Adam Friedrich von Seinsheim was keen to establish a centre of horticultural excellence at Wrzburg. The Residenz of the Prince Bishops had been conceived with grandeur. It was built between 1719 and 1744, designed by Johann Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753) and modelled on Versailles; Tiepolo painted the fresco on the ceiling of the ceremonial double staircase. Immediately upon his appointment as head gardener in 1770 Mayer set about transforming the gardens according to contemporary fashion and undertaking botanical research and development. An unfinished collection of drawings, which includes varieties of north American plants, survives at Wrzburg, attesting to the breadth of his horticultural interest. Among his plans were the creation of terraces connected by flights of stairs or ramps and decorated with balustrades and sculptures in the east bastion; a labyrinth, a Temple of Flora and Bacchus, tasteful ruins, Chinese and Indian Lusthäuser, and orangeries in the south-west garden; nursery and kitchen gardens where exotic plants were cultivated in the south-east bastion; and an extensive array of fruit trees in the south and south-east bastions, as well as fruit trees planted in tubs to line the borders at the south side of the palace. An engraving of the garden plan was published with the first volume of the Pomona Franconica. The death of Adam Friedrich in 1779 abruptly curtailed many of Mayer's costly improvements to the gardens, such as water spectacles, a pavilion for the east bastion with stairs and cascades, and a hedge garden. Political events also intervened to the detriment of the gardens, with the occupation by the French in 1796; soon afterward, the Prince-Bishopric was secularised and amalgamated into the Kingdom of Bavaria. The Residenz was heavily damaged by bombs in 1945 and virtually nothing of Mayer's elaborate scheme remains today. The death of Mayer's patron also had a near-disastrous effect on the Pomona Franconica, delaying the publication of the third and final volume by 22 years.

The cultivation of fruit trees at the Residenz married perfectly the desire for the exotic with the challenges of cultivation. Mayer's special interest in fruit trees was nurtured in France, where he had been impressed by the extensive orchards at Versailles. Two years later, as court gardener for the Prince Bishop, he not only undertook the establishment of orchards at the Residenz, but he also embarked on his creation of a pictorial record of their fruit which culminated in the publication of Pomona Franconica.

Mayer states in the introduction to the Pomona Franconica that he had first intended to produce only a catalogue raisonné of the different fruit cultivated in the court garden and to illustrate it with 'illuminated' copper-engravings, but that he was then persuaded by 'lovers of gardening' to write a systematic treatise on the cultivation of fruit trees. That preliminary catalogue appeared at Wrzburg in 1774, published by Mayer himself, as Verzeichniss der Obstbäume von den besten, seltensten und meistgeschätzten Gattungen, welche in dem Hof- und Residenzgarten ... gezogen werden. Only two copies of the printed Verzeichnis are known, both at Wrzburg. Despite Mayer's proud boasting in the Verzeichnis of the fine quality of the illustrations accompanying it, neither copy is illustrated, indicating that preparation of the plates for the Pomona Franconica may have superceded the publication of plates for the Verzeichnis. Mayer turned immediately to compiling a comprehensive pomona of Franconia. It was published in three successive volumes by the Winterschmidt family at Nuremberg, the first and second volumes appearing in 1776 and 1779, respectively, devoted to 'Steinobst' and illustrated with 35 and 66 plates, and the third volume following in 1801, devoted to apples and pears and illustrated with 154 plates. Only 110 copies were printed, all 'illuminated' by hand.

The present set of drawings appears to have originated as a manuscript pomona. Noble and wealthy patrons had commissioned manuscript florilegia in the preceding two centuries to create a permanent celebration and record of their extensive gardens; such florilegia were symbols of high status (see lot 88, for one example). While most remained in manuscript, unique treasures coveted by their owners, some were published. The most famous example of a printed florilegium is perhaps that of the gardens at Eichstätt, the Hortus Eystettensis, by Basilius Besler. The earliest drawings in the pomona appear to have been made on folio leaves, depicting the fruit in both colour and in monochrome. The monochrome drawings were made next to the colour study, which they duplicate exactly, and so appear to have been drawn second. They are not mere sketches or preliminary studies, but fully accomplished and quite beautiful drawings. Perhaps they show Mayer offering two alternatives for eventual publication to Adam Friedrich. At this early stage the manuscript was further 'completed' for presentation by the addition of captions in German and French, written in a formal hand in black ink. This same hand appears on garden designs presented to Adam Friedrich which survive at Wrzburg and Munich. The successful reception of the original drawings led to further work on the pomona, and additions were made, now executed only in colour. These additions may also represent the simultaneous growth of the orchards at Wrzburg under the direction of Mayer.

Mayer then decided to publish a selection of the fruit in the manuscript pomona as a catalogue to the fruit trees in the princely garden and to offer specimens for sale; the Verzeichnis is accompanied by a printed list of prices. It is tempting to consider the sale of fruit trees through the Verzeichnis as a way of raising funds to subsidize the publication of the manuscript pomona. While no illustrations are known for the Verzeichnis, the original drawings make it clear that a selection of images was made for the Verzeichnis; one set of numbering, usually in the extreme left margin (and sometimes therefore trimmed) corresponds to the numbering of the fruit in the printed Verzeichnis. The decision to publish the full manuscript as the Pomona Franconica superceded Mayer's intention to illustrate the Verzeichnis, and so work commenced on preparing the drawings for publication by the Winterschmidts at Nuremberg.

A great deal of attention was given to the preparation of the engraved plates and, in particular, to their colouring. Mayer wrote that he aimed to surpass mere resemblence in the illustrations; he wanted to create the illusion of real fruit standing on the page. This effort is well documented in the original drawings and proof plates. The images were copied for transfer to the copper-plate, so that the final engravings are oriented in the same direction as the original drawing. Three sets of proof plates were coloured according to the originals, in order for teams of colourists to work efficiently and accurately. The present set contains plates marked first, second, or third 'Mster'; another set of proof plates survives at the Mainfränkisches Museum at Wrzburg (mistakenly recorded as originals by Nissen). Great effort went into printing the plates as well, and appropriate inks were used to print various fruits: plates of peaches, for instance, were printed in orange ink. Annotations on the drawings and master proof plates document work on the identifications and captions, and include notes to the colourists. There are also later notes made by the Winterschmidts, indicating that the drawings were used by the firm after the publication of the Pomona for other purposes. The watermarks in the master proofs are the same as in the plates in all three volumes of the printed edition. The plates for all volumes were therefore printed at more or less the same time in the late 1770s, well before the publication of the final volume in 1801. (5)
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Lot Essay

The artist of the fine fruit illustrations in the Pomona Franconica has not hitherto been identified. Mayer stated only that the illustrations were the work of 'skilful hands'; none of the engraved plates names the artist; and subsequent bibliographers have been unable to provide an attribution. Several of the original drawings, however, are signed with the initials of Joseph Schmitt. Schmitt was an artist at the Residenz, a painter of flowers, fruit and coats-of-arms. As one of a team of court artists, he was also responsible for the interior decoration of the Ingelheimer Zimmer at the Residenz. He is even documented in 1771 painting garden tubs, perhaps the tubs containing the very trees whose fruit he was also painting for the pomona. He may have been assisted by other, still anonymous, artists in his work on the pomona, but the drawings are chiefly his. Some later drawings are by Johann Samuel Winterschmidt.


C. Bauer, 'Der Wrzburger Hofgarten', Mainfränkisches Jahrbuch fr Geschichte und Kunst, 13 (Archiv des Historischen Vereins fr Unterfranken und Aschaffenburg, vol. 84), 1961, 1-27.

K. Schäfer, 'Johann Prokop Mayer 1735-1804: ein Wrzburger Hofgärtener', Mainfränkischen Jahrbuch fr Geschichte und Kunst, 32, 1980, 165-176.

R. Sedlmaier and R. Pfister, Die frstbischofliche Residenz zu Wrzburg, Munich: 1923.

A. Frauke von der Wall, 'Köstliche Frchte aus Frankischen Gärten', Altfränkische Bilder- und Wappenkunde, 89, 1990, 1-4.
Christie's is grateful to Dr. A. Frauke von der Wall, curator at the Mainfränkisches Museum at Wrzburg, and to Frau Angelika Pabel of the university library at Wrzburg for their patient assistance.

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