Hortus floridus Iesse, Or, The imperfect book of flowers
The Hortus floridus Iesse is a twenty-first-century reinterpretation of seventeenth-century European florilegia, often called flower books.
The florilegium, simply put, is an image collection of decorative flowers that is usually made in water- and body-color or (hand-colored) intaglio printing on paper or parchment. Seventeenth-century florilegia focus on flowers and decorative plants that were rare and curious, including plants that were then recently introduced to Europe from Asia Minor and the Americas, as well as garden cultivars from the thriving horticultural activities of the period. A flower book usually includes several varieties of the same flower, such as irises of different colors and narcissi with single and double flowers.
The Hortus floridus Iesse takes on this fascination with decorative flowers. However, instead of visually recording the rare and curious flowers of today, the collection is, for the most part, the result of the personal process of dealing with my many struggles during the Covid-19 pandemic. Decorative flowers were one of the few things that brought me joy on some of the hardest days. Drawing and painting these flowers provided momentary relief from the sorrow, sadness, and depression I was experiencing. It also (re)kindled the excitement to identify and learn more about the flowers that I did not know before.
Stylistically, the collection is much inspired by the imperfections in historical florilegia, exploring the idea that a flower picture can be unfinished, awkward, or even ugly at times, but still be charming. On an emotional level, the Hortus floridus Iesse is just as much about learning to let go of perfection and seeing value in being good enough.
A glimpse of the project
- Hortus Eystettensis, Basilius Besler, Nürnberg, 1613, https://bibdigital.rjb.csic.es/idurl/1/10908.
- Hortus floridus, Crispijn van de Passe II, Utrecht, 1614, https://bibdigital.rjb.csic.es/idurl/1/13646.
- Gottorfer Codex, Hans Simon Holtzbecker, 1649-1659, SMK – Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, https://issuu.com/smk.dk/docs/gottorfercodex.
- Florilegium for Eberhard Anckelmann, Hans Simon Holtzbecker, 1660, The British Museum, London, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1888-1211-1-1-74.
- Hortus amoenissimus, Franciscus de Geest, Leeuwarden, 1668, Biblioteca nazionale centrale di Roma, Rome, http://digitale.bnc.roma.sbn.it/tecadigitale/manoscrittoantico/BNCR_Ms_VARIA_0291/BNCR_Ms_VARIA_0291/1.
- Jardin de rares et curieux fleurs, Franciscus de Geest, Leeuwarden, second half of the seventeenth century, Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Upperville, VA, https://issuu.com/osgf/docs/osglrm_book5_edited.
- Bloemenboek `Plusieurs Especes de Fleurs dessinées d’apres le Naturel’, multiple painters for Agneta Block, second half of the seventeenth-century, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.313905
Short video of the painting process, originally made for the 2020 Utrecht University Well-being Week.