‘Ars botanica’: paper gardens on display at Miramare castle in Italy

The exhibition ‘Ars botanica, Paper gardens’ curated by Andreina Contessa, Director of the Historical Museum and the Park of Miramare Castle, in Triest, Italy, displays from September 15, 2022 to June 11, 2023, for the first time a selection of the more than one hundred books on botany and gardens in the Miramare library, a series of objects never seen before from the museum collection, a valuable Flemish painting from the Royal Museums of Turin, and some historical artifacts from the Trieste Civic Museums. The exhibition is accompanied by more than 2,000 beautiful images of flowers and plants created in the nineteenth century and drawn by the greatest botanical illustrators of the time.

The exhibition briefly traces the history of botanical illustration, a genre-straddling between the world of art and science, which has ancient historical roots, initially associated with pharmacopeia. Gradually botanical science became a discipline in its own right dedicated to the study of plant species and involved the creation of new illustrations and live drawings by specialized artists. In the nineteenth century, botany was also intertwined with horticulture and biology, and botanical treatises became popular books also among women, for whom dedicated books were published.

In addition to rare and exotic plants, local floras and books on anatomy and morphology proliferated. Two specimens of plants collected in the mid-nineteenth century in the Park of Miramare bear witness to this trend. One section of the exhibition is dedicated to Maximilian the botanist, and an even larger one reveals for the first time Charlotte’s passion for botany, and perhaps her unprecedented role in the creation of the gardens. A bible box opens two windows on the botanical books of the Miramare library, one dedicated to the archduke’s books, and the other to his consort’s.
Another section is reserved for Books and Gardens and the various treatises on landscape architecture, gardens and their buildings, and descriptions of European parks. Two short sections close the exhibition: Castle in Bloom, which invites visitors to look at the objects and furnishings of the castle with fresh eyes, searching for many floral and botanical elements; Soul of the Garden, which beckons visitors to find the Genius loci of Miramare, and its botanical soul in the Park. The paper garden is reflected outside and reveals to us the complex conception of the Park, the creation of a unique space straddling culture, art and nature.



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