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Illustrated Leaves: Florilegia from the 16th to 21st Century


Wed 30 Mar 2011, 10:00am–5:00pm
Thu 31 Mar 2011, 10:00am–5:00pm
Fri 1 Apr 2011, 10:00am–5:00pm
Sat 2 Apr 2011, 10:00am–5:00pm
Sun 3 Apr 2011, 10:00am–5:00pm

Where: Auckland War Memorial Museum, Domain Dr, Auckland Domain, Parnell, Auckland

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Listed by: Auckland Museum

In the Age of Discovery, intrepid explorers returned to Europe with so many exotic plant and animal specimens from Africa, the Indies and the New World that chaos loomed for naturalists. Botanists and illustrators scrambled to classify and catalogue the newfound natural wonders. These rare and remarkable illustrations feature in Auckland Museum’s exhibition Illustrated Leaves: Florilegia from the 16th to 21st Centuries.

Illustrated Leaves showcases six centuries of illustrated books and botanical art from Auckland Museum Library’s extensive collections. The exhibition is held in the Museum’s Pictorial Gallery.

More than just an exhibition of botanical art, Illustrated Leaves explores the shifting motivations behind the exquisite production of florilegia – a Latin word describing anthologies of flowers. Once a means to record and classify plant-life never before seen by European eyes, they now present an opportunity to document plant-life the world may never see again.

The exhibition features Matthias de L’Obel’s Plantarum, seu, Stirpium historia (Plants, or, an account of their lineage) published in 1576. Bound in parchment, written in Latin with 1441 woodcuts, L’Obel’s work pioneered a new system of plant classification based on leaf form. It is considered a landmark in botany and is one of the Museum Library’s most prized possessions.

From woodcuts to the delicate hand-painted plates of esteemed 18th century artist Georg Ehret, to lithographs and contemporary coloured digital prints, Illustrated Leaves traces innovations in methods of production.

On James Cook's first voyage to New Zealand in 1769, the young artist Sydney Parkinson sketched exotic plant-life new to science. Working in cramped and difficult conditions, Parkinson recorded hundreds of specimens. Parkinson died at sea from dysentery, however when Cook returned to England, 185 of the artist’s sketches were made into engravings, several of which are featured in Illustrated Leaves.

The exhibit also showcases one of two volumes of The Highgrove Florilegium, a recently acquired contemporary collection of 63 prints of plants found in the Prince of Wales’ organic garden at Highgrove. Just 175 copies of the Florilegium were created, each embossed with gold and bound in leather. Their covers have been hand-marbled with the spine covered in red chieftain goatskin.

The Highgrove Florilegium features the work of award-winning New Zealand botanical artist Susan Worthington, who personally presented her art to the Prince this year.

Illustrated Leaves is an exhibition for treasure hunters and curious minds; an opportunity to explore rarely seen illustrated books from the Museum Library’s extensive research collections.

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