Johanna Helena Herolt knew how to arrange plants for maximum impact. The crown imperial is the focal point of this painting, with its delicate red-veined petals fully open to reveal the flower’s pistil and stamen. While many women during Herolt’s life were discouraged from displaying the reproductive anatomy of plants, Herolt’s training, as the daughter of celebrated artist-scientist Maria Sibylla Merian, taught her not to shy from such details. She composed paintings with vivid colors that stand out against vellum, and while the flowers below the crown imperial are less vibrant, the painting ties together the imperfections of nature. Characteristic of much of her work, the irregular leaves that occupy fully half of the painting give the whole composition an unpolished and natural feel, as if captured quickly in real time. The bluebells, painted in delicate lilac, accentuate the bold orange flowers crown imperial above. Herolt skillfully introduces movement into the scene, with the insect perched on top of floral bracts.


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