Gill Crabbe, FNG Research
Flower painting in the western canon of art became an independent genre in the 17th century. As the Sinebrychoff Art Museum displays its exhibition ‘Linnaeus: Glimpses of Paradise’, Gill Crabbe asks curator Claudia de Brün about the research involved in developing themes for the show
The Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s ability to tend its garden of art treasures and cultivate innovative exhibition material continues with its wide-ranging show on the theme of the Northern garden, flower painting and its relation to science, ‘Linnaeus: Glimpses of Paradise’. From its own prize possessions of 17th-century flower paintings by artists such as the Dutch master Johannes Borman, court painter to Louis XIV Jean-Michel Picart, and the workshop of the supreme Dutch master Jan Brueghel I, the museum has negotiated loans of significant works in the genre from Northern European museums to complement them. The show’s theme opens out to include floral elements in religious art, the importance of botanical illustration, the meeting of art and science in the vision of the iconic Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, and how floral themes appeared not only via the art that Paul and Fanny Sinebrychoff collected but also in the decorative and functional pieces that adorned their everyday life.
There is also the contextual theme of paradise – the word’s original meaning of a walled area or garden being rooted in ancient Iranian language – which takes in the socio-political developments of colonial nations during the 17th and 18th centuries. Exotic plants and species were brought back from voyages of discovery for wealthy elites to create ornamental gardens, with walled enclosures, trees and water fountains providing a haven from the wild nature beyond. In the exhibition, the paintings of such earthly delights as a pineapple plant that bloomed in 1729 at the gardens of royal palace of Ulriksdal near Stockholm, by the Swedish artist David von Cöln (1689–1763), the anthological florilegia of the 16th and 17th centuries, and Hieronymus Francken II’s Connoisseurs at a Gallery, all serve as examples to underline the specific value of plants as collectors’ items in this period.
Featured image: Jean-Michel Picart, Still life of Flowers, 1600–82, oil on canvas, 35cm x 48.5cm. Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis
Read more — Download ‘The Flowering of Science and Art’, by Gill Crabbe, as a PDF