A Manuscript tulip album. [Germany: c.1670]. 2° (350 x 225mm). 96 original flower drawings in body colour, occasionally with traces of black chalk sketching visible, on fine vellum (each drawing c.175 x 115mm), depicting 73 tulips, 7 carnations, 7 crocusses, 2 narcissi, 2 hyacinths, 3 fritillaries, including a Persian Lily, and one iris. A tulip and a rose bound at the end are by another artist. (Slight surface wear to 11 drawings, small smear in 5 drawings, small stain in blank area of one sheet, and one drawing somewhat creased.) Mounted in a 17th-century German binding of blindstamped pigskin over wooden boards, a remboîtage (slightly worn, upper and lower spine compartments darkened, label removed from penultimate compartment), modern cloth box.
A FINE 17TH-CENTURY GERMAN TULIP ALBUM CONTAINING 'FLOWER PORTRAITS' OF GREAT BEAUTY. Tulips were highly prized throughout the 17th century, commanding exorbitant prices earlier in the century and exciting tulipomania. This album testifies to the continued high status attached to tulips in particular and to gardens in general, a status which was in turn bestowed on their owner. Several of the most expensive types of tulip, including double tulips, are depicted among the 73 flower drawings in this album. These flower paintings were clearly executed by an accomplished, highly skilled and observant artist. His (or her) identity has not been discovered, but the style is reminiscent of the work of Hans Simon Holtzbecker, whose own work was long mistaken for that of Maria Sibylla Merian. A tulip album of similar style and date, perhaps by an unidentified artist with initials 'P.A.', was sold in these rooms in October 1995 (lot 63). The artist has chosen to paint on small sheets of fine vellum, yet has not painted the flowers in miniature. The flowers therefore burst from the page, often barely contained within the edges of the vellum sheet. This treatment produces a lively aesthetic uncommon among florilegia.
The album may be dated to circa 1670, as the tulips show a transition from varieties popular at the height of tulipomania in the 1630s to the large, global, blunt, and vivid colours typical of Baguettes-type tulips of the 18th century. The tulips depicted here are characterised by more global shapes with broad and somewhat blunt petals and more intricate patterning, particularly stripes of reds or purples on a white or yellow flower base, traits typical of tulips around 1670. German characteristics of the period may be seen in the treatment of the petals, most lobed; the leaves, often curled; the long brush strokes of the veins; and the dark green colour of the stems, covered by a thin layer of brown pigment with grey or blue-green heightening. The accomplishment of the painting, the fine quality of the vellum, and the range of highly fashionable and expensive flowers depicted all attest to the work having been executed for a wealthy or noble patron as a perennial record of his garden. In the aftermath of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) a number of princely pleasure gardens were created, such as those of Johann, Duke of Nassau-Saarbrcken at Idstein and the Dukes of Gottorf in Schleswig Holstein. These noblemen commissioned artists, Johann Valentin Hofmann and J. Walther the elder, and Hans Simon Holtzbecker, respectively, to create manuscript florilegia, which survive today. Holtzbecker undertook a similar commission for Barthold Moller, mayor of Hamburg, producing a work hardly less sumptuous than these princely creations; one volume of the Moller Florilegium was sold in these rooms in March 1999.
Christie's is grateful to Dr. Sam Segal of Amsterdam for his insights concerning this tulip album.