Volkamer. Citrus Fruits

Uncommon fruits. This is a horticultural extravaganza that stuns with playful surrealism a la Magritte. Have you ever thought of citrus fruits as celestial bodies, angelically and heroically suspended in the sky above? Perhaps not, but J. C. Volkamer did - commissioning an extravagant and breathtaking series of large-sized copperplates representing citrons, lemons, and bitter oranges; in these surreal scenes, the fruits appear in the sky, majestic and life-size, floating like planets above vedute of villas, gardens, or landscapes far below. One cannot help but wonder what could have possessed Volkamer to devote himself so passionately to this unusual hobby, though the beauty of the resulting illustrations needs no explanation. Before they were imported from Italy in the 16th century, citrus trees were largely unknown north of the Alps; over the next two centuries the exotic and fragrant specimens gained much popularity in gardens throughout the region. One amateur horticulturist in particular, the Nuremberg merchant J. C. Volkamer, positively devoted himself to the citrus. Ordering plants by post mostly from Italy, Germany, Northern Africa, and even from the Cape of Good Hope so that his garden would contain a wide variety of speciments, he became so obsessed that he commissioned a team of artists and copperplate engravers to create 251 plates of 174 different citrus species to illustrate his two-volume treatise on the citrus. The first volume appeared in 1708, with the impressively lengthy title The Nuremberg Hesperides , or Thorough Description of the Noble Citron, Lemon and Bitter Orange Fruits: How They may be Properly Planted, Cultivated, Tended and Raised in This and Neighbouring Regions . This reprint also includes 53 additional illustrations discovered only recently that show the most extravagant varieties of citrus fruits which the author intended to publish in a third volume. As a printed work of enormous botanical, cultural, and historical significance, Volkamer's Hesperides provides intriguing insights into the rich horticultural praxis of his time. It is also a curious precursor to surrealist artworks created centuries later by the likes of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte. Art lovers, horticulturists, and lovers of curiosities can certainly agree that this collection of plates is both unprecedented and thoroughly delightful.