Herman Saftleven

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Herman Saftleven
Studies of Five Flowers and Plants
Watercolor, opaque watercolor, and selective gum arabic glaze, on paper.
13 7/8 x 9 7/8 inches (353 x 252 mm)
Purchased on the Fellows Fund.

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Although she received no formal scientific education, Agnes Block (1629-1704) was a passionate horticulturalist and collector of plants and flowers. She cultivated them, mostly from seed, in her garden at Vijverhof-a country house on the River Vecht, southeast of Amsterdam, that Block bought after the death of her first husband, in 1670. It was her practice to document her collection by commissioning watercolors from artists. Between 1680 and 1684, at the tail end of a career spent producing Italian and Dutch landscapes and genre scenes, Herman Saftleven made a number of such studies at Block's request. The verso of this sheet is inscribed, in Block's hand, with the correct Latin names of the individual plants and the months when they flowered.


Signed with monogram and dated at lower left, in brown ink, "HSL (in ligature) .f. 1682. 29. Jǔliŭs"; inscribed twice, presumably by the artist, under two of the flowers (at center and right), also in brown ink, No ["o" in superscript] 1"; on the verso, in the hand of Agnes Block, in brown ink, at lower left, "Dorycniŭm monspoliense / vŭlgo Lotŭs · jŭlÿ"; at lower center, "Lÿsimackia semper virens spicatae / ·s· Ephemeron mathioli · julÿ"; at lower right, "Medica Marina / Tomenstosa · jŭnÿ"; and at the upper right, "Dorycniŭm Congener cŭsÿ· / 6 Aŭgŭsti -".
Watermark: Fleur-de-lis in shield, surmounted by crown, (Strasbourg lily), (similar to Heawood, no. 1786: Holland [?], c. 1690).

Agnes Block (1629-1704), Vijverhof, Amsterdam; sale, London, Sotheby's, 1 November 1965, lot 42 (with 60 botanical studies in an album to "H.P. Kraus"); private collection; Douwes Gallery, Amsterdam, 1983; acquired from Schaeffer Galleries, New York.
Associated names: 

Block, Agnes, 1629-1704, former owner.


Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Twenty-First Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984-1986. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1989, p. 376.
Jane Shoaf Turner, with contributions by Felice Stampfle, Dutch Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library: Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, New York, 2006, cat. no. 276.

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