Botanical illustrations

The Botanical Garden of Naples preserves a precious collection of 165 nineteenth-century botanical illustrations, created using mixed techniques with a predominance of watercolor.

The origin of these illustrations is diverse and does not seem to correspond to a unified idea: in part, their creation is to be attributed to the need of accompanying scientific articles or the prestigious work Flora napolitana by Tenore and, in these cases, the plates were subsequently printed. However, some plates remained unpublished and, at times, even the names of the plants depicted in them were unknown.

La collezione di disegni Tritonia tardiflora DehnhWatercolor of Tritonia tardiflora Dehnh., drawn by Federigo Dehnhardt.

Most of the drawings depict exotic plants. It is probable that some of these works were intended to illustrate characteristics of species cultivated in the Botanical Garden that are difficult to observe in herbarium specimens.

La collezione di disegni Solanum pseudo melongenaWatercolor of Solanum pseudomelongena Ten., drawn by Achille Bracco.

Other plates may have been prepared for educational purposes, although it is not easy today to reconstruct their history. It is not excluded, finally, that some illustrations may have been donated by the authors of the new species themselves. Some of the depicted plants, in fact, are not known to have ever been cultivated in the Botanical Garden of Naples, but rather in the now-defunct Hortus Camaldulensis, located in the Vomero district of Naples and now completely incorporated into urban expansion.

La collezione di disegni Eucalyptus elataWatercolor of Eucalyptus elata Dehnh., drawn by Federigo Dehnhardt.

Among the authors are also some well-known artists, including Federigo Dehnhardt, who was also a director of gardens and a prominent botanist.

The works for which we know the date of creation were commissioned or painted between 1816 and 1873, the period of the Botanical Garden's maximum splendor, but it is not possible to date them all with precision.

La collezione di disegni Pogostemon suavisWatercolor of Pogostemon suavis Ten., drawn by Achille Bracco.

Reading suggestions:
Del Guacchio E. et al. (2022). La collezione di disegni dell’Orto Botanico di Napoli: nuovi spunti di ricerca. Notiziario della Società Botanica Italiana, 6: 119-120.
Natale D. (2019). I disegni dell’Orto Botanico di Napoli. Napoli: Artem.