March 04, 2004

Floating Fruit

The engravings in Johann Christoph Volckamer’s 2-volume opus Nürnbergische Hesperides (1708/1714) bring to us a surreal parade of Bavarian and Italian locales above which enormous citrus fruit hover ominously…

First of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.


Second of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.

Some of the fruit are intact, whilst others have been neatly sliced in half as though by some vast, unseen blade. One imagines British Naval agents being dispatched to Nuremburg to discover if there could be any way of exploiting these gargantuan floating citrus reservoirs in the fight against scurvy.

Third of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.


Fourth of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.
Volckamer’s prints were made during a period in which it was fashionable among the aristocracy in Central Europe to grow these Mediterranean fruits despite the cold winter climate. Wealthy people built tall greenhouses or ‘orangeries’ to shelter the trees during the winter, and had the plants moved outdoors in the summer. […]The prints follow a distinctive format, in which prize varieties of citrus fruits in monumental scale float in the sky above bird’s-eye views, or the plants tower over Lilliputian landscapes of the formal gardens, palazzos and country houses where they were grown. The places shown are in Nuremberg and northern Italy, especially around Verona. Each specimen is decorated with a ribbon bearing its name. The prints were engraved by various artists - source here.
Fifth of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.


Last of six coloured copper engravings from Volckamer's 'Nürnbergische Hesperides'.

I lifted the present images from this page. Click on the pictures to see them slightly enlarged. When I look at the second of them, I can’t help but be reminded of a certain painting

Posted by misteraitch at March 4, 2004 10:06 AM | TrackBack

Dear H,

good work, wonderful weblog. Its perhaps a month ago that I visited by first time your page, and since then, I cannot give it up. Hold on.

In my case, the second engraving reminds me another Ren Magritte painting entitled "Voice of space" (1931).

(sorry for my incorrect english, Im spanish)


Posted by: Rrose Slaby on March 4, 2004 03:49 PM

Perhaps we should bring Mulder and Scully out of retirement and see what they make of these strange UFOs. :)

Posted by: Duckling on March 4, 2004 05:08 PM

Great stuff! Why can't we have a large citrus over NYC?

But something has gone amiss in "Volckamers prints of were made during a period..."

Posted by: language hat on March 4, 2004 07:08 PM

Oh, this is wonderful, I see some rare species. There is a similar permanent exhibition at Schwetzingen Castle, where they also display the tools that were used to lift the trees and bushes. Very impressive!

Posted by: mademoiselle a. on March 4, 2004 07:10 PM

Thanks for pointing out the typo LH, which, I hope, I have now amended. I suspect that giant citrus in NYC might attract unwanted Godzilla-like fauna - perhaps it is better if they are discouraged...

Posted by: misteraitch on March 4, 2004 10:10 PM

These are terrifying. Presumably they were painted from hurried sketches made at the time of the manifestations. The overwhelmingly important question is: will they ever return? Many thanks for the alert. Now we must, of course, watch the skies above all major buildings in our lage cities...

Posted by: Dick Jones on March 5, 2004 12:45 PM

Yes, yes--Magritte! So maybe 'Modern' isn't so revolutionary after all? Anyway, I've been looking in on these pages for a while and am finally taking the time to thank you--you have introduced me to some fascinating artists and ideas.
Thanks for ferreting out these things and sharing them.
--Sarah, from near Philadelphia, PA, USA

Posted by: Sarah on March 5, 2004 03:53 PM
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