Jacques Le Moyne (de Morgues), Wallflowers, a Butterfly and a Snail, a watercolour with bodycolour

London, England, around AD 1585

This watercolour is taken from an album of fifty drawings, possibly the finest botanical studies of the sixteenth century. Insects were common in flower paintings of the time and here a tortoiseshell butterfly perches on the yellow wallflowers and sips the nectar while a snail crawling up the side of the painted frame heightens the three dimensional effect of this sheet.

A number of the designs from the album served as models for embroidery and other decorative work, but their high finish and meticulous naturalism suggest that they were originally made as presentation drawings. The patron is not known, but may have been Lady Mary Sidney, mother of the famous Elizabethan poet, Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86).

Le Moyne (about 1533-88) was also a writer and draughtsman of the attempt to establish a French Huguenot colony in Florida. He had sailed there from France in 1564 but the colony was destroyed by the Spanish the following year. Not only did he draw local botanical and animal specimens but also some of the native Americans, such as the Indians of north-eastern Florida.

In London around 1585, Le Moyne met John White who copied some of the French artist's drawings. Le Moyne's work was published and illustrated within a few years of his death.

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More information


J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

M. Jacobs, The painted voyage: art, trave (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

P. Hulton, The work of Jacques le Moyne d (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)


Height: 214.000 mm
Width: 142.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1962-7-14-1(7)


Purchased with the aid of the Pilgrim Trust and Nuffield Foundations, the National Art Collections Fund


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