Libri Picturati

The Libri Picturati is a collection of 16th-century natural history watercolors, now housed in the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków, Poland.  There are 15 volumes, 13 of them picturing plants, the remainder animals.  A few years ago, a massive book, Drawn After Nature (KNNV Publishing, 2008), was published with reproductions of all the plant images in the collection.  Some of the illustrations are full-page; most are presented several to a page.  The overall effect is awesome.  There are also essays on an array of aspects of the collection including who served as patron, who did the painting, and who wrote the extensive annotations.  None of these questions have totally unambiguous answers, which just makes the collection more fascinating.  The authors here come to the conclusion that the patron was Charles de Saint Omer, that there were several artists involved with the major contribution made by Jacques vanden Corenhuyse, and that the annotations were by Carolus Clusius who received patronage from Omer and had been a guest at his estate.  In any case, the collection is a wonderful example of the important connection between realistic renditions of plants and the documentation of botanical knowledge in the 16th century.  Drawn After Nature makes the art accessible to a much wider audience, including scholars who are studying the development of botanical art and its connection to the science of botany.