Written by Giovanni Battista Ferrari (Italian, 1584–1655)
Published by Sumptibus Hermanni Scheus
Designed by Guido Reni (Italian, 1575–1642)
Printed by Johann Friedrich Greuter (German, active Rome, ca. 1590/3–1662)
Etching and engraving
12 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. (31 x 21 cm) (plate)
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1967 (67.828)
This book on citrus fruit by Giovanni Battista Ferrari (15841655), published in Rome in 1646, belongs to one of the most splendid and scientifically precise botanical works of seventeenth-century Europe. Its illustrations, etched by Cornelis Bloemaert, were designed by the foremost artists of the day, including Nicolas Poussin and Guido Reni. The book reflects the author's own interest in gardening and collecting exotic plants, a pursuit facilitated by his central position as Jesuit man-of-letters in the circle of scholars and natural scientists at the papal court. In fact, his first book, De florum cultura, published in Rome in 1633, was dedicated to Cardinal Barberini, and depicted exotic plants from the Orti Barberini. Ferrari subsequently turned from flowers to the study of citrus fruits, publishing what is the first scholarly work describing the orange, lime, lemon, and their varieties. The publication of his book coincided with the growing interest in and structural sophistication of seventeenth-century orangeries, forerunners of greenhouses, needed to keep the delicate trees protected from the cold of Northern Europe or heat of Italian summers.
As the title of the book indicates, the central theme is the mythical garden of the Hesperides, comparing it with the contemporary flowering of the Italian garden during the "Golden Age" of the Barberini reign. The print shown here is made after a drawing by Guido Reni, depicting allegorical figures representing the Hesperides themselves and several gardeners planting trees and tending the orangerie garden.