|European Watercolors — de Bry - Tulipia Gesnariana|
|de Bry - Tulipia Gesnariana
Johann Theodore de Bry
Medium: Watercolors on paper
Dimensions: Paper size: 15 ½ x 7 7/8 inches, Framed size: 19 ¾ x 14 5/8 inches
Johann Theodor de Bry was a prominent member of one of the foremost families of artists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He was the son of Theodor de Bry and the grandfather of Maria Sybilla Merian. His father was famed for being the publisher of the series Great Voyages, which was issued from 1590 until 1630. Great Voyages consisted of illustrated travel narratives that are today documents both historically and artistically fundamental to the Age of Discovery and Johann Theodor began his publishing career by assisting his father in that seminal enterprise. Eventually he became the most prolific printmaker of the family, practicing both engraving and etching. With his father and his brother Johann Israel, he published two popular emblem books: Emblemata Nobilitate et Vulgo Scitu Digna (1593) and Emblemata Secularia (1611).
De Bry is most acclaimed, however, for his great florilegia. A florilegium was a type of illustrated flower book that became popular in the seventeenth century. De Bry was responsible for two of the most beautiful florilegia of his time: the Florilegium Novum (1611) and the Florilegium Renovatum et Auctum (1641), which he published along with his brother-in-law (and equally noted artist) Matthias Merian.
This stunning watercolor was almost certainly painted in preparation for yet another florilegium that would focus on what were then the most popular flowers in the world, tulips. At the time, the tulip was a new import from Turkey, where it was so popular that annual tulip festivals were staged by the sultan. After their introduction into Europe, the early seventeenth century witnessed "tulipomania" where bulb prices skyrocketed and the tulip became a real financial commodity. When the market suddenly bottomed out in 1637, many people who had mortgaged their homes and estates to buy bulbs and make quick fortunes were never able to fully recover.
This watercolor demonstrates the outstandingly precise detail and beautiful rendering for which de Bry is justifiably famed. It exhibits a sense of vitality and realism, reflecting the superb artistic skills of a master botanical painter.
PROVENANCE: Hunt Institute, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh
LITERATURE: J. V. Brindle & J. J. White, Flora Portrayed (Pittsburgh, 1985), pp. 17, 19