Gherardo Cibo, Men Collecting Specimens on a Hillside, 16th century
Source: British Library Twitter feed
This illuminated manuscript page shows specimen hunters on an Italian hillside, equipped with sickle, mattock and sack. They are so intent on their work they seem oblivious to the beautiful sunset behind them. It was painted by the amateur botanist Gherardo Cibo (1512-1600) who illustrated his own researches in Urbino and incorporated elements of the surrounding landscape into his botanical illustrations. The example below is one of several that can be seen at the British Library page for 'Additional MS. 22332'. In addition to the Daphnoides it shows 'a botanist gathering plants on a mountainside and a fortified town and river in the background.' In other paintings of specimens we see a countrywoman gathering plants, a man sitting on a fallen column, people harvesting olives, a person reading a book and a man hitting a snake with a branch. But it his distant views that are particularly appealing - a flock of sheep, a weir and watermill, a fortified town, a port, a rocky island, a mountainous landscape. Cibo's people are in scale with these landscapes; it is the plants that have grown to giant proportions, like a Fumewort under which two young girls are able to sit in the shade and chat.
Gherardo Cibo, Daphne Laureola (Spurge-laurel), 16th century
Source: British Library
I came upon the painting of specimen hunters last week in the 'Herbology' section of the British Library's exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic. There is clearly something magical about the other pictures in the MS too, as Cibo transforms herbs into plants the size of trees. J. K. Rowling's treatment of landscape is something I can't really discuss as I've not read her books (though I have caught the gist of the story while Mrs Plinius was reading them to our kids and seen bits of the Harry Potter movies). The exhibition is excellent though, whether you're bothered about Harry Potter or not, with many interesting objects and books in addition to the Gherardo Cibo herbal. However, one manuscript that wasn't on display was the second one by Cibo that the Library owns, 'Additional MS. 22333'. The images on the British Library page include two seascapes and a landscape, along with the delightful view below, which at first appears to be a typical sixteenth century depiction of the Italian countryside, until you see the outsize lichens and ferns growing over the surface of the rocky hillside.
Gherardo Cibo, Lichens and Ferns on a Rock Face, 1584
Source: British Library