f. 19: Corn Poppy
JACQUES LE MOYNE DE MORGUES (FRENCH, CA. 1533-1588)
f. 19: Corn Poppy
Watercolor and gouache on paper prepared as vellum
Paper size: 7 1/2 x 5 5/8 in Frame size: 16 1/4 x 14 1/4 in
Provenance: DuMarry (from the inscription on the frontispiece)
This magnificent manuscript containing botanical paintings, executed in watercolor and gouache, is only the fifth substantial compendium of works by Jacques Le Moyne to be identified to date. It is also the largest and earliest of the florilegium created by Le Moyne and roundly considered to be his finest and most lavish achievement. Le Moyne was among a rare and exclusive group of artists who specialized in the creation of florilegia. Most exampleswere printed, following in the tradition of the herbals of such authors as Leonhart Fuchs, but a few original painted florilegia were commissioned by wealthy amateur botanists and aristocrats who wished to have pictorial records of the valuable plants to be found in their gardens. The superior quality of the present work is, however, unquestionable. While several of the plants depicted also appear in the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Museum and the Oak Spring Library manuscripts, Le Moyne is careful to change each composition in subtle ways. The Opium Poppy, Clove Pinks, the Walnut and the Melon are all found in at least two versions and yet never appear as exact replicas but rather variations upon a theme. In color and attention to detail the present album relates most closely to that in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but is unsurpassed in the freshness and spontaneity of the images, perhaps reflecting the early date of the manuscript, completed during the earlier part of Le Moyne’s career in France. Each flower seems to burst forth from the sheet, the three-dimensional quality of the composition heightened by the surrounding framing lines. This magnificent manuscript is a rare jewel of the sixteenth century and fully justifies Le Moyne’s reputation as one of the most exceptional artists to have worked in Elizabethan England. The delicate nuances of color and three-dimensional quality of the images is truly breathtaking and most skillfully achieved. Each composition stands alone as a masterpiece.