Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bodleian Treasures and Painting by Numbers

If you're ever in Oxford, as I was on Friday, I urge you to go to the Weston Library on Broad Street Oxford (opposite the Sheldonian Theatre). There are two displays of note involving natural history and botanical artwork from the past.

Bodleian Treasures: 21 pairs and a tropical forest

(Bodleian Treasures: 21 pairs and a tropical forest until 11 February 2018)
This is the first is a periodically rotating exhibition which pairs up two items from some of the best treasures of the 12 million items in the Bodleian Library Collection.

At the moment one of the major displays included covers a Tropical Forest (see below)

Tropical Forests display
It also includes a copy of Audubon's Birds of America

The owl in Audubon's Birds of America
Plus a volume of Robert Thornton's Temple of Flora on display (see below). “The Temple of Flora” is the third and final part of Robert John Thornton’s New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus. 

I couldn't find a digital copy on the Bodleian website - so here's the version contributed by the Misssouri Botanical Library to the Internet Archive

Double page spread from Robert Thornton's Temple of Flora
In addition, the display included an 11th century Herbal -  translation of a translation of the Herbarius of Pseudo-Apuleius. The plants were drawn first and the text added afterwards.
The Herbarium Apulei was one of the most widely used remedy books of the Middle Ages. Over 60 medieval manuscripts of the text survive.
Copy of the Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius (11th century)
Dropwort is illustrated on the left and Narcissus poeticus on the right

Painting by Numbers

(Painting by Numbers until 9 July 2017) - This is about a Leverhulme sponsored scientific project to decipher Ferdinand Bauer's colour code - used for annotating his sketches made while accompany expeditions around the world. It's explained in this article Bodleian display showcases scientific research into Bauer's botanical masterpieces.
The display is in the main entrance hall - next to the entrance to the Treasures exhibition.

The Painting by Numbers Display
One of Bauer's annotated sketch for the Flora Graeca
Bauer made hundreds of pencil sketches of plants and animals when he explored the eastern Mediterranean in 1786-87.
Bauer's Colour System - a numerical colour code and pigments in mussel shells
There will be a lecture next Wednesday lunchtime (24th May) about Reconstructing Ferdinand Bauer's mysterious colour code by Dr Richard Mulholland, Leverhulme Research Fellow, Bodleian Libraries. Dr Mulholland is an art historian who is usually involved with lots of scientists in relation to the conservation of art from the past.

The project aims to decipher Bauer's numerical code used on one of his expeditions (for the Flora Graeca - also a Treasure of the Bodleian) and identify the numbers back to colours and pigments. (You can see a digital version of the Flora Graeca online)

I'll also be writing in more depth about this project and last Friday's lecture by Rosemary Wise, the botanical illustrator working with Oxford University in Botanical Art and Artists - News next week

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