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Lot 46: JACQUES LE MOYNE DE MORGUES DIEPPE CIRCA 1533 - 1588 LONDON
Old Master Drawings
January 26, 2005
New York, NY, USA
81 leaves of paper prepared as vellum (see note), the first leaf with an elaborate watercolour architectural cartouche on the recto and four-line manuscript verse in French on the verso, the remaining leaves with 80 fine watercolour and gouache drawings of wild flowers, bound in eighteenth-century French mottled calf gilt, central green morocco panel with elaborate gilt border and floral corner-pieces and lettered "anno 1770" in gilt, flat spine gilt with green morocco onlay, gilt edges.
Bears an inscription and paraphe beneath the frontispiece: Cela (?) este donne par DuMarry; and a four-line poem on the verso: il ne fault plus chercher l'efmail d'un gay Printéps/De qui les uiues fleurs fe fannent en une heure,/Icý la douce Flore, en fa beaulté demeure,/Et ne perd fes honneurs par la rigueur des téps. [Seek no more the colors of a gay Spring / which in the living flowers fade in an hour / here sweet Flora remains in her beauty / and does not lose her distinction through the rigors of time]
This remarkable, newly discovered and superbly preserved album of botanical paintings, executed in watercolor and gouache by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (circa 1533-1588), is only the fifth substantial group of works by the artist that has been identified to date. It is also the largest, its eighty images being twenty more than in any of the other known manuscripts by the artist. Dating from Le Moyne's early career in France, this is one of the earliest known French florilegia, the first coherent florilegium by the artist to come on the market since 1961, and the finest and most lavish that remains in private hands. It therefore represents an extremely significant addition to our knowledge of this fascinating and extremely rare Huguenot artist.
Details of Le Moyne's extraordinary career and adventurous life only gradually emerged during the course of the 20th Century. He was born in around 1533, in Dieppe, which was at the time a great center of cartography and illumination. Nothing is known of his training and earlier career, until early 1564, when he seems to have been instructed by the French King Charles IX to travel as cartographer and official recording artist on an astonishing and ill-fated expedition to establish a Huguenot settlement in Florida, led by the notable mariners Jean Ribault and René Goulaine de Laudonnière. After his return to France in early 1566, Le Moyne wrote a fascinating illustrated description of the voyage and account of the various disasters that befell the party, most of whom perished, some at the hands of the local Indian tribes or the Spanish, and others as a result of mutiny and rebellion within their own ranks. Only fifteen returned alive. This account was published in Frankfurt by Theodor de Bry in 1591, under the title Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americae provincia Gallis acciderunt; it contains 42 engraved maps and illustrations of the inhabitants of Florida and their customs, and is an extremely important early source of information on these subjects. In 1572, Le Moyne fled to England to avoid the Huguenot massacres, and remained there until his death in 1588. Soon after his arrival in England, he came to the attention of Sir Walter Raleigh, to whom he was probably introduced by his fellow artist John White, who shared similar interests in exploration, and Raleigh remained one of the artist's most important patrons for the rest of his career. In this cultural milieu, where the interest of ethnographer and the curiosity of explorer were entwined with the refined aesthetic sensibility of the Elizabethan period, Le Moyne produced some of his most fascinating works, including the exquisite gouache of the so-called Young Daughter of the Picts (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven).
Prior to the identification of any original drawings by the artist, Le Moyne was only known to a very specialised audience as the writer and illustrator of the account of Laudonnière's Florida expedition, and also as the author of an extremely rare book of woodcuts of plants, animals and birds, published at Blackfriars in 1586, under the title La Clef des Champs. In 1900, however, an original gouache on parchment by Le Moyne, relating to the Florida expedition, was discovered; representing The Indian Chief Athore showing Laudonnière the Marker Column set up by Ribault, this drawing is now in the collection of the New York Public Library (see Paul Hulton, The Work of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, Oxford 1977, vol. I, cat. no.34, reproduced vol. II, pl. 6). The rediscovery of the talent of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues as a botanical artist is also relatively recent. In 1922 Spencer Savage, librarian of the Linnean Society, recognized that a group of fifty-nine watercolors of plants on thirty-three sheets, originally contained in a small volume with a late 16th-century French brown calf binding and purchased by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1856, were in fact the work of this previously little-known artist (see Spencer Savage, 'The discovery of some of Jacques Le Moyne's botanical drawings', The Gardeners' Chronicle, 3rd series, vol. LXXI, London 1922, p. 44, and idem, 'Early botanical painters, no.3, Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues', ibid., vol. LXIII, 1923, pp.148-49).
These publications by Savage paved the way for further attributions to the artist, notably the album of fifty botanical watercolors acquired by the British Museum at Sotheby's on 11 December 1961 (lot 177; see Hulton, op.cit., cat. nos. 36-86, reproduced pls. 35-48). The botanical drawings in that album were preceded by a sheet with a manuscript sonnet dated 1585 (in a hand that has been identified as that of the Huguenot writing-master John de Beauchesne). More recently, a manuscript florilegium very similar to the present example, though containing sixty rather than eighty paintings, was identified by Lucia Tongiorgi Tomasi in the collection of Rachel Lambert Mellon, at the Oak Spring Garden Library, Upperville, Virginia (see L. Tongiorgi Tomasi, An Oak Spring Flora. Flower Illustration from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Time, a Selection of the Rare Books, Manuscripts and Works of Art in the Collection of Rachel Lambert Mellon, Upperville, Virginia, 1997, pp. 23-29; Tongiorgi Tomasi initially classified the album as "Attributed to Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues", but has since published the opinion that it contains autograph replicas by the artist himself of drawings from the Victoria & Albert manuscript: see L. Tongiorgi Tomasi, 'L'Immagine Naturalistica: Tecnica e Invenzione,' in Natura-Cultura...Atti del Convegno Internazionale di Studi, Mantove, 5-8 ottobre 1996, Florence 2000, p. 143). Another group of twenty-seven rather less formally conceived works was discovered in 2003 and sold, New York, Sotheby's, 21 January 2004 (lots 29-55), but prior to the identification of the present volume, these were the only substantial groups of works by the artist that were known. In addition to these groups, Le Moyne's other original botanical works comprise fourteen very fine miniatures on vellum, eight of them in the The Garden Library, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., and the other six formerly in the collection of the late Eric Korner (sold, New York, Sotheby's, 29 January 1997, lots 55-60).
The relationship, and the contrast, between the sheets of studies by Le Moyne de Morgues sold in these rooms a year ago and the supremely elegant, complete, finished work presented here, is both striking and illuminating. Though no less refined and accomplished on a technical and aesthetic level, it is clear that the less formal study sheets could never have been intended to be seen, or sold, as complete, self-contained compositions. Here, however, each exquisitely executed plant study is presented in the context of an extremely carefully constructed composition, and contained within an illusionistic frame. These frames are painted in a delicate pale orange color, heightened with a fine gold line, and many also include darker brown lines representing stylized fictive shadows, which serve to give these borders a real sense of depth. In certain cases (for example f.1, the daisy), the leaves of the plant slightly overhang the drawn border, and cast shadows onto it, thereby lending subtle emphasis to the spatial illusion. Similar painted frames are also present in the Oak Spring album, but they are less sophisticated in handling than those seen here; in fact, the borders most similar to these are to be found in the six sumptuous miniatures formerly in the Korner collection (see above).
Another indication of the extent to which the present watercolors were conceived almost as miniatures is to be found in the nature and preparation of the paper itself. Peter Bower has made an extensive study of the papers used in the various groups of drawings by Le Moyne, and has established that the paper used here, which contains a distinctive pot watermark with the letters ISIMO/NNET (very similar to Briquet 12826), was almost certainly made on the same moulds as the paper on which the Le Moyne drawings in the Victoria & Albert Museum are executed. He attributes this paper to a French manufacturer named Simonnet, and dates it to the early 1560s. The watermarks are to be found at the edges of the sheets, running through the spine and onto the next sheet, which is what one would expect when the larger sheets of paper that were produced on these moulds were folded in four, ready for binding and cutting. Moreover, one side of each sheet has been stone glazed prior to the execution of the paintings (as seems also to be the case in the Oak Spring florilegium). This process involved working over the surface of the paper with a heavy stone, to achieve a smooth, polished surface similar in texture to vellum. Sometimes, as here, an even greater smoothness was achieved by working casein into the paper during this process. The extremely smooth, vellum-like surface that resulted would have been much more suited to the artist's fine, miniaturist technique than ordinary untreated paper.
Although the present binding of this album does, of course, post-date the drawings inside by a full two centuries, there are nonetheless clear indications that the different sheets in the volume were intended to be bound together as a set, and in this sequence, from their creation. First of all, there is the presence of the early, perhaps original, decorative frontispiece, on the back of which is a poem in a 16th-century calligrapher's hand, not so very different from that of the poem formerly in the front of the Le Moyne de Morgues album in the British Museum. Also, as Peter Bower has observed, not only do the watermarks suggest the pagination is undisturbed, but there are in some cases traces of offsets from one sheet onto the back of the preceding one, which can only have resulted from the album pages touching each other before the paint was totally dry. Lastly, when there are several studies of similar plants, these follow each other consecutively (e.g. the various pinks and marigolds, ff. 31-36), and furthermore the overall sequence of the manuscript closely parallels that of the Victoria & Albert florilegium.
The history of the making of florilegia, both printed and, more rarely, painted, is one in which Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues is a central figure. The pioneering works of European botany were the printed herbals of authors such as Otto Brunfels (1530-36), Leonhart Fuchs (1542) and Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1554). These books were, however, all very much conceived as scientific texts, illustrated with woodcuts that were more informative than beautiful. Slightly later in the 16th century, a parallel tradition in botanical illustration began to emerge, in which the emphasis was at least as much on the aesthetic qualities of the illustrations, and the plants were reproduced in ever more refined engravings or etchings or, in a few cases, original watercolors or gouaches. These florilegia were made for amateur botanists and aristocrats who wished to own not only a record of the rare plants that they were cultivating in their gardens - horticulture was increasingly fashionable during this period - but also a beautiful artistic object. In fact, the late 16th-century fashion for gardening was closely linked with other aspects of taste, and the work of botanical artists such as Le Moyne de Morgues reflected very closely, and also influenced, contemporary styles in costume and other textiles, and in decoration and ornament in general. Not only after his move to England in around 1572 but already in his early years in France, Le Moyne was one of the greatest and most original botanical artists of his time, and there are virtually no surviving florilegia that antedate Le Moyne's three known works of this type from his French period (those in the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Oak Spring Library, plus the present work).
The relationship between these three florilegia is clearly a close one, and all three also demonstrate links with the group of less formal drawings sold last year. Many of the plants are represented in more than one of the manuscripts (see the list below for a full concordance), and the actual depictions of each are often very similar: the Opium Poppy with its head turned to the left, the twin, crossed sprigs of Clove Pinks, the Walnut, shown with the nut in its pith, in its shell, and open, the melon with a slice cut out and lying below, all are found in at least two versions. Yet closer examination shows that these are not in fact precise replicas, and the artist has usually removed a leaf or flower bud here and added one there, so that each image is actually a subtle variation on the original theme, which somehow satisfies more harmoniously the specific aesthetic demands of the composition in question (the aesthetic qualities of his compositions being always of paramount importance to Le Moyne). The overall consistency of style and quality, particularly with the drawings in the Victoria & Albert Museum, is, however striking, not only in terms of spirit and composition, but also in the use of color and definition of detail. The touches of color on the stamens of flowers, the depiction of the little hairs on the poppy stems, the shadows built up with blocks of gray wash, all are portrayed in exactly the same ways, with an extremely subtle combination of meticulous, almost miniaturist technique and a great freedom and transparency of subtly nuanced watercolor. In the British Museum drawings, and also to a lesser extent those in the Oak Spring Library, although the techniques and range of colors used are still strikingly similar, the handling is generally a little more repetitive and formulaic, suggesting that Le Moyne was by then approaching his subjects with slightly less spontaneity and freshness of vision.
Given Le Moyne's extraordinary talent as an artist, and the great interest that there was during his lifetime for botanical illustration, it seems likely that the majority of his botanical drawings must be lost; even with the recent discoveries, the total number of surviving works is small. With the exception of the six miniatures and twenty-seven individual drawings auctioned in recent years, all of his previously known works are in British and American museums and libraries. The present, superbly preserved manuscript florilegium, dating from the artist's early career in France, is the largest single group of his works that has so far been identified, and an immensely important addition to the surviving oeuvre of this enormously gifted and pioneering ethnographic and botanical artist.
In the preparation of this catalogue entry, we gratefully acknowledge the kind assistance of the following people: Prof. Luisa Tongiorgio Tomasi, who has, on the basis of transparencies, confirmed the attribution to Le Moyne de Morgues; Peter Bower, who identified the watermarks and papers in the present sheets and compared them with the two groups of works by the artist in the Victoria & Albert and British Museums; and Celia Fisher, who helped greatly with the identification of the species depicted.
The letters following the identifications of the plants in the following list indicate in which other manuscripts the same species are represented (VA = Victoria & Albert Museum; OS = Oak Spring Library; BM = British Museum; S = Sotheby's New York, 21.1.04)
f.1: Double daisy and Painted Lady butterfly (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.2: Sweet violet and butterfly (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.3: Common Mallow and Damselfly (VA, OS, BM);
f.4: Dog Rose and caterpillar (VA, OS, BM);
f.5: Wild Daffodil and insect (VA, BM, S);
f.6: Foxglove (VA);
f.7: Lily of the Valley with butterfly and grasshopper (VA, OS);
f.8: German Iris and insect (VA, OS, S);
f.9: White Iris and dragonfly ;
f.10: Wild Gladiolus and stag beetle;
f.11: Lesser Periwinkle (S);
f.12: Peony (VA, OS, S);
f.13: Species Rose with snail (VA, OS);
f.14: Cyclamen (VA, OS);
f.15: Opium poppy (VA, OS, S);
f.16: Common Vetch and Black-Veined butterfly (VA,OS);
f.17: Common Borage(VA, OS, BM, S);
f.18: Corn Cockle (VA, OS, S);
f.19: Corn Poppy (VA, OS, S);
f.20: Cornflower (VA, OS, S),
f.21: Love-in-a-mist (VA, S);
f.22: Staversacre, Delphinium staphisagria (VA);
f.23: Gilliflower,Matthiola incana (VA, OS, S);
f.24: Dragon Arum and tortoiseshell butterfly (VA, OS);
f.25: Bugloss (VA);
f.26: Cranesbill ;
f.27: Sweet-scented Chamomile (VA);
f.28: Red Clover (VA);
f.30: Heartsease (VA, BM, S);
f.31: Clove Pinks (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.32: Clove Pinks (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.33: Pot Marigolds (VA, OS, BM);
f.34: French Marigold (VA, OS, BM);
f.35: Plume Pink (VA);
f.36: Clove Pinks (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.37: Rue (VA);
f.38: Millet and moth (VA);
f.41: Larkspur (VA, OS);
f.42: Dame's Violet, Hesperis Matronalis;
f.43: Gilliflower, Matthiola incana (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.44: Wild Columbine;
f.45: Columbine (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.46: Columbine with butterfly (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.47: Orange Lily and dragonfly (S);
f.48: Gilliflower, Matthiola incana (VA, BM, S);
f.49: Hollyhock (BM);
f.50 Solomon Seal;
f.51: Bittersweet (Woody Nightshade);
f.52: Wild Sage and butterfly;
f.53: Fern (OS);
f.54: Wild Clary;
f.55: Lavender (VA);
f.56: Spanish Broom and butterfly;
f.57: Gooseberry and butterfly;
f.58: Peach (VA, OS, BM);
f.59: Pomegranate (BM);
f.60: Bullace (VA, OS, BM);
f.62: Cob-nut (VA, BM);
f.63: Wild Cherry (VA, OS, BM);
f.64: Wild Strawberry (OS, BM);
f.65: Almond (VA, BM);
f.66: Nectarine (VA, OS);
f.67: Walnut (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.68: Wild Cherry (VA, OS, BM);
f.69: Medlar (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.70: Pear (VA, OS, BM);
f.71: Cucumber (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.72: Melon (VA, OS, S);
f.73: Grape-vine (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.74: Globe artichoke (VA, BM);
f.75: Apple (VA, OS, BM, S);
f.76. Common Fig (VA, BM);
f.77: Mulberry (VA, OS);
f.78: Seville Orange (VA, OS, BM);
f.79: Lemon (VA, OS, BM);
f.80: Quince (VA, OS, BM)
Provenance: DuMarry (from the inscription on the frontispiece)
Dimensions: small quarto, 195 by 140mm, 7 11/16 by 5 1/2 in