This woodblock was designed by Giorgio Liberale and Wolfgang Meyerpeck for the 1562
edition of Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s foundational manuscript Commentarii in sex libros Pedacii Dioscoridis
de medica materia. “Limonium,” or sea lavender, is a coastal plant also common to inland marshes. Its
leaves are produced in a dense basal rosette, with thin flowering stems. “Limonium” and the other
Mattioli woodblocks have been praised for their extreme detail and shading. They are placed among
the finest and latest existing examples of botanical woodblock prints, as technologies in metal
engraving went on to replace wood as a medium in the 1580s.
This woodblock exemplifies the tendency of the artists to fill the full perimeters of the
rectangle, stunting the lavender blooms at the very top of the block. Mattioli’s illustrations have
earned the charge of having a “chintz” or uniform depiction of the plant that emphasizes formal symmetry rather than the natural shape of the specimen.
The artists, Liberale and Meyerpeck, used large planks of pear wood to produce the
woodblocks, and because they made allowances for blemishes in the blocks’ surfaces, scholars have
deduced that they drew their designs directly onto the wood. Contrasting the illustrations with
others of the period, scholar William Patrick Watson notes, “The Mattioli images seem to express
delight in the formal and symmetrical designs that the plant forms allow, and the technical
challenges of depicting dense and complex patterns, without sacrificing botanical accuracy.”