Herbarium vivae eicones ad naturae imitationem summa cum diligentia et artificio effigiatae, (...).

Pharmacology Herbals

Herbarium vivae eicones ad naturae imitationem summa cum diligentia et artificio effigiatae, (...). As we can see from the title, O.Brunfels wanted to make a herbarium with images representing living plants in their natural environment. This is also his purpose in the part that we analyse here, De utilitate herbarum et simplici medicinae (1530). The importance of the work lies not so much in the text. He does not add anything new and talks about the use and the already known medicinal properties of plants. The first decades of the 16th century were a difficult period for botanical iconography due to the invention of print. Drawers and engravers, who were used to sketch the image of herbs and plants with a few medieval-like simple strokes, had to specialise in drawing plants and learn the secrets of xylography. Tools like drawing quills, gravers and gouges needed the hands of an expert who had to be able to render all details of a plant. For this reason the author decided to put his work in the hands of Hans Weiditz, an excellent drawer with whom he had clashing opinions from the beginning for the artist’s wish to include in the herbarium simple plants with little historical tradition but of great graphical effect. An example of H.Weiditz’s drawing skills is the image of a Pulsatilla (pasqueflower), which is a fine piece of art whose colours and lines make the flower look natural, "animated" and real. The image is "living". Only one flower is turned to face the reader, while the other flowers and leaves appear in their natural positions. The teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) and the Christmas rose (Helleborus Niger) on page 30 look extremely real and natural with their perfectly painted flowers and leaves. Please note on the same page that the image of the flower is accompanied by its Latin, Greek and old German name. It is highly probable that most drawings and woodcuts included in the first two books of the Herbarum vivae icones and in the part called De utilitate were realised by H. Weiditz. If we compare Brunfels’ and Fuchs’ Herbarium De Historia stirpium we notice that the images included in Fuchs’ work are simpler and less shaded. However we must not forget that Fuchs’ images were meant to be coloured. The only purpose of Otto Brunfels’ work is to "support the declining science of botany, to give life to an almost extinguished science".

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