Hesperides sive de Malorum Aureorum cultura et usu. Libri Quatuor

Various artists/makers

Not on view

This book on citrus fruit by Giovanni Battista Ferrari (1584–1655), published in Rome in 1646, belongs to one of the most splendid and scientifically precise botanical works of seventeenth-century Europe. Its illustrations, etched by Cornelis Bloemaert, were designed by the foremost artists of the day, including Nicolas Poussin and Guido Reni. The book reflects the author's own interest in gardening and collecting exotic plants, a pursuit facilitated by his position as Jesuit man-of-letters in the circle of scholars and natural scientists at the papal court. In fact, his first book, De florum cultura, published in Rome in 1633, was dedicated to Cardinal Barberini, and depicted exotic plants from the Barberini garden. Ferrari subsequently turned from flowers to the study of citrus fruits, publishing what is the first scholarly work describing the orange, lime, lemon, and their varieties. The publication of his book coincided with the growing interest in and structural sophistication of seventeenth-century orangeries, forerunners of greenhouses, needed to keep the delicate trees protected from the cold of Northern Europe or heat of Italian summers.
As the title of the book indicates, the central theme is the mythical garden of the Hesperides, comparing it with the contemporary flowering of the Italian garden during the 'Golden Age' of the Barberini reign. The print shown here is made after a drawing by Guido Reni, depicting allegorical figures representing the Hesperides themselves and several gardeners planting trees and tending the orangerie garden.

Hesperides sive de Malorum Aureorum cultura et usu. Libri Quatuor, Written by Giovanni Battista Ferrari (Italian, Siena 1584–1655 Siena), plates: etching, engraving

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