Monday, May 17, 2010

Gent with flower


Strictly speaking I wasn't supposed to take this pic so am keeping mum about where this is from ;-)

This is a portrait of the author of an 18th-century florilegium, or plant encyclopedia. He was German and the book was published in Amsterdam beginning around 1730 (it took 12 years to complete). It's in 8 volumes; each around 500 pages long and contains 1,000 etched and hand-coloured illustrations. Each illustration was waxed to preserve the colour (and presumably to prevent it rubbing off on the facing page).

Imagine the logistics of organising that in that time period. No phones, no email, no typewriters or computers - no reliable postal service even. If the print run was just 1,000 that would mean they had to have 1,000,000 illustrations hand-painted to a consistent quality and correctly interleaved in the books. The text refers to illustrations by numbers (and there is an index at the end of the last volume)

I was really charmed that he had his portrait done in his baroque frock coat and wig holding a flower - his life's work.

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