- Museum number
Drawing from an album, white and crimson Tulip, purple Larkspur and yellow Narcissus, tied with blue ribbon
Watercolour over metalpoint, shaded with grey wash, on vellum
- Production date
Height: 179 millimetres
Width: 114 millimetres (average)
- Curator's comments
- From album 1878,1214.59-91
The following entry is taken from Kim Sloan, 'A Noble Art: Amateur Artists and Drawing Masters, c.1600-1800', BM Press, 2000, cat. no.46, pp. 71-2:
Alexander Marshal was by profession a merchant, who had lived for some time in France, but he was also a respected botanist and entomologist, described by Samuel Hartlib as one of the greatest Florists and deales for all manner of Roots Plants and seeds from the Indies and else where= (quoted in Leith-Ross, p. 7). He created at least four albums of drawings of flowers and insects: the one from which the present works are taken, possibly his earliest; A Book of Mr Tradescant=s choicest Flowers and Plants, exquisitely limned in vellum= from the 1640s (recorded in the catalogue of the Musaeum Tradescantianum in 1656, now lost); the Windsor Florilegium (cats. 45, 47, 48); and a volume of 63 folios of insect studies (now Philadelphia, Academy of Natural Sciences). He collected and made observations on insects and the art of drawing them and in the Bishop of London's garden at Fulham, where he resided for a time, he planted cedars of Lebanon and raised exotic plants including a Guernsey Lily sent to him in 1659 by his friend General Lambert. The Bishop was Henry Compton (1632-1713), one of the most active horticulturalists of his day and for a time religious instructor to Princesses Mary and Anne.
'A new Man of Experiments and Art' (Hartlib, in Leith-Ross, p. 7), Marshal experimented with colours from plants throughout his life and the Royal Society approached him for his recipes soon after their foundation. In his reply in 1667 he gave one or two examples but apologized for not giving more, because not only were the recipes constantly changing, but, echoing the reasoning of Evelyn and other gentlemen virtuosi in similar situations, he wrote: 'The truth is, they are pretty secrets, but known, they are nothing. Several have been at me to know, how; as if they were but trifles, and not worth secrecy. To part with them as yet I desire to be excused' (Leith-Ross, 12-13) The drawings at Windsor certainly contain unusual colours and, kept in an album, they are still fresh. Unfortunately the group of thirty-three on vellum in the British Museum must have been exhibited once they were removed from the album in which they came to the Museum in 1878.
At one time it was hoped that the group in the British Museum were the missing Tradescant book, but they were not considered sufficiently exotic to correspond with the latter's known rarities. Nevertheless, a number of the flowers depicted were relatively new to northern Europe in the seventeenth century. The native columbine was dark purple-blue but the pink varieties were brought from North America by John Tradescant by the 1630s. A large number of the flowers depicted are tulips, including 'Parrot' tulips, broken tulips with irregular edges, which came into cultivation shortly after the Restoration.
The bouquet motif, usually a random mixture of flowers intertwined or loosely tied with a ribbon, frequently appeared in floral pattern books whose primary purpose was for designers or decorators of textiles and china. It also appeared in botanical books with primarily decorative intent and was therefore an apt one for use in florilegia. It was used by Nicolas Robert (1614-85) and other artists in their botanical portraits on vellum painted for the King of France. Marshal was resident for some time in France where he may have seen their work. In the eighteenth century, Ehret employed the motif frequently throughout his career, having seen the French works on a visit to Paris in 1734-5. Marshal did not use it in his most famous work, the Windsor Florilegium, where nearly all the watercolours are on paper, but he did use it for the present series, all watercolour on vellum.
Literature: John Fisher and Jane Roberts, 'Mr Marshal's Flower Album from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle', London 1985, passim; P. Leith-Ross and H. McBurney, 'The Florilegium of Alexander Marshall at Windsor Castle', 2000, pp. 7, 21, 24-8 and Appendix C
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1958 Apr, BM, Eight centuries of landscape ... water-colours, case 41
2000 May-Sep, BM P&D, 'A Noble Art', no.46(c)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number