In the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic the arts of the garden held a great attraction for the wealthy owners of large private estates. Orangeries and hothouses allowed encounters with the exotic plants and fruits of the Mediterranean and the New World, and a collaboration of gardening enthusiasts, horticulturalists, botanists, collectors and writers contributed to scientific knowledge and understanding of nature.
Section from a set of construction plans for the Fagel House in The Hague, built by François Fagel the Elder around 1706. The importance given to the garden is in the tradition of his uncle Gaspar Fagel who had a famous garden with many exotic and rare plants at Leeuwenhorst, near Leiden, during the latter part of the 17th century.
Part of the extensive flowerbeds extending to the stables, rubbish and ash pits, bleaching field and arbour alongside the canal bordering the Noordeinde palace. Separately, there is a detailed planting plan for varieties of tulips sown here in 1718. The plans for the first floor of the house indicate an orangery where citrus and delicate plants could be cultivated.
Jan (Johannes) Commelin was a commissioner at the Hortus Medicus of Amsterdam, now the Hortus Botanicus, which had one of the richest collection of exotic plants in Europe. He and his nephew Caspar were key figures in the world of botany in The Netherlands and beyond. He also maintained his own garden and is seen here supervising the gardeners bringing trees into the orangery for over-wintering.
Daily life on the River Vecht is seen in this print of the towns of Weesp and Muyden in North Holland. Rural and urban life could also be hard for many citizens of the Republic, with civil unrest, Anglo-Dutch and Anglo-French wars, and religious conflict in Europe. Dutch newspapers reported events at home and abroad; the Oprechte Haerlemse Courant of 14 June 1692 refers to a local revolt in Ireland in Co. Kerry, and tracks arrivals, departures and loss of ships deployed at war and in the Dutch colonies.
Water management in Holland was vital then as now, evinced by this elaborately illustrated depiction of sluice-gates in Kennemerland. Weather, storms and floods were of great concern to this low-lying land. While tropical plants were being grown in hothouses, Holland was experiencing severe winters along with much of Northern Europe.
The audio is a clip from the track Emergo, from "Struggle & Emerge" by Irish band Lakker. This is a composition commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision to examine the relationship between the Dutch and water.
The Dutch were leaders in the science and art of map-making and atlas production in the 17th century. The Dutch East India and Dutch West India Companies played a vital role in the advancement of cartography and also commissioned botanists and artists to record the natural history of lands they had re-discovered.
Supreme botanical illustrator and entomologist Maria Merian chose the pineapple for the first two illustrations in her classic work on the metamorphosis of insects in the Dutch colony of Surinam in South America. She spent two years there studying and drawing the insects and flora for one of the most beautiful books on natural history ever published.
The orangery could not provide the conditions needed for growing tropical flowers and fruits. The Dutch led the development of the hothouse, pioneered at the botanic garden of the Hortus Medicus Amsterdam in 1682. Hot stoves, under-floor heating, light and ventilation were key elements which enabled the pineapple and other exotic plants to be grown in Europe.
The first European depiction of a tropical orchid appeared as a woodcut and vignette theme in a work on plants with medicinal properties in the Spanish Empire in the New World. Cultivated by the Aztecs of central Mexico, it is described by Francisco Hernández, the physician of Philip II, under its Indian name Coatzonte coxochitl. (Now called Stanhopea hernandezii)
This engraving of Epidendron Curassavicum folio crasso sulcato is the first record of a tropical orchid in cultivation in Europe. Originating in Curaçao, in present nomenclature it is Brassavola nodosa, popularly called Lady-of-the-Night because of the pleasant nocturnal fragrance of its white flowers. As an epiphytic orchid growing on trees in the tropical rain-forest, a hothouse would have been required to bring it into flower in Northern Europe.
In the accompanying description Hermann presents an image drawn from life, as seen growing "in Horto Fageliano" (in Fagel’s garden). Paul Hermann was medical officer to the Dutch East India Company in Sri Lanka, and later director of the famous botanic garden at the University of Leiden.
He recorded in his notebook details of the plants which he saw in the gardens he visited; he includes a list of plants from Fagel’s garden, and Fagel sent him seeds and cuttings for his herbarium.
Georg E. Rumphf (Rumphius) was one of the great tropical naturalists of the seventeenth century. Born in Germany, he spent most of his life working for the Dutch East India Company, stationed on the island of Ambon in eastern Indonesia. His Ambonese herbal describing the native plants of that island and its archipelago is a masterpiece of tropical botanical literature.
Hieronymus van Beverningk was another statesman and cultivator of exotic plants whose plant collection and library was an important source for writers of botanical works. The garden at his country house Oud-Teylingen, close to Leiden, features as background in this portrait, and diarist Contanstijn Hugens mentions meeting him on several occasions in the company of Fagel.
Jansson's decorative map of the fabled Spice Islands in Indonesia ( Maluku Islands or the Moluccas). On the sea are European and local ships, two of which are engaged in battle. The Spice Wars saw European rivals in conflict to control the lucrative spice trade. The negative side of European expansion included slavery and destruction of indigenous people and cultures.
The cultivation, preparation and properties of tea in Japan are covered here in an eleven-page appendix. This was written by a Dutch surgeon and botanist with the Dutch East India Company, Willem ten Rhyne. Tea was introduced to the Netherlands early in the 17th century from China and later came from Dutch plantations in Java and Sumatra. Tea bushes were observed in the gardens of Agnes Block and Gaspar Fagel.
The VOC garden supported the provisioning of ships which was initially the main purpose of the settlement, rather than trade. Van der Stel was one of Fagel’s contacts and planted cinnamon, clove and camphor trees in the garden, to be ready for shipment and planting at home. These were ordered to be destroyed to protect the monopoly of the VOC over the spice trade. In 1688 a shipment was made of seventeen cases of trees and plants to the gardens of William, the Hortus Medicus of Amsterdam, and Fagel.
Pelargonium from Van der Stel's report to the VOC of his expedition to the Copper Mountains of Namaqualand in 1685. The manuscript is illustrated with images of the flora and fauna he encountered on his journey, most likely drawn by Hendrick Claudius. Described as "a kind of geranium with a sweet and edible root and therefore much favoured by the inhabitants... Found on the 24th September ".
A wondrous plant from South Africa enthralls Kings Solomon and Cyrus the Great, along with Greek and Roman botanists Dioscorides and Pliny. Recording his observations is Theophrastus, the Greek writer known as the Father of Botany. The plant has been identified as Conicosia pugioniformis, a common plant around Cape Town.
This allegorical scene in Munting’s floriligium references medicinal properties of plants, toil, and the reward of the beauty and bounty of the garden. After Gaspar Fagel's death in December 1688, his collection of plants was sold to William III, who had them transported to Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex, where they formed the nucleus of Queen Mary's collection there. William had commissioned the painter Cousijn to create a record of the garden and plants at Leeuwenhorst beginning in 1685. The Codex Regius Honselaerdicensis, a manuscript of watercolours is now in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.
Bourrées by Nicolas Vallet, a French composer living in Amsterdam in the 17th century.
Gaspar Fagel had many botanical works in his library which was auctioned in The Hague and London. Books such as this exquisite hand-coloured publication by Munting were luxury items and works of art for purchase by wealthy collectors such as the Fagel family, and were also reference works of immense scientific value. The Fagel family continued to collect books on botany and horticulture as evidenced by the very many rich volumes in the collection at Trinity College Library.
Learn more about the Collection at www.tcd.ie/library/fagel.
Curation: Regina Whelan Richardson, the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
Technical assistance: Greg Sheaf, Digital Systems and Services, the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
Imaging: Gill Whelan, Digital Resources and Imaging Services, the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
With thanks to Lydia Ferguson, Shane Mawe, Anita Cooper, Simon Lang, Helen McGinley, Paul Ferguson, Peter Guilding and Ellen O'Flaherty (the Library of Trinity College Dublin) and the Botany Department at Trinity College Dublin for their assistance. For further assistance our thanks to Marieke van Delft (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) and Arthur de Weduwen, author of "Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century, 1618-1700". Leiden,2017.
We would like to express our gratitude to the National Gallery of Ireland, the Nationaal Archief (The Hague), the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), The Museum of The Hague and the Amsterdam Museum for providing images from their collections and permissions to use them in this exhibition.
17th century Dutch composer Jacob van Eyck's "The Flute's Garden of Delights", played by Dutch musician Erik Bosgraaf.
"Emergo", by Irish band Lakker. "Struggle & Emerge" is a composition commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision to examine the relationship between the Dutch and water. Released in 2016.
"Bourrée I & II" by Nicolas Vallet, a French composer living in Amsterdam in the 17th century, played by John Renbourne.
In the course of researching this exhibition, I have drawn from many works on the subject and the following in particular were a fount of information and inspiration:
Den Hartog, Elizabeth, and Carla Teune. “Gaspar Fagel (1633-88): His Garden and Plant Collection at Leeuwenhorst.” Garden History, vol. 30, no. 2, 2002, pp. 191–205.
Hunt, John Dixon, and Erik de Jong., eds. The Anglo-Dutch Garden in the age of William and Mary : catalogue = De Gouden eeuw van de Hollandse tuinkunst : catalogus. London, 1988.
Hunt, John Dixon, ed. The Dutch Garden in the Seventeenth Century. Washington, D.C., 1990
Jackson, Timothy R., ed. Frozen in Time: the Fagel Collection in the Library of Trinity College Dublin. Dublin, 2016.
Zwaan, Marisca Sikkens-De. “Magdalena Poulle (1632-99): A Dutch Lady in a Circle of Botanical Collectors.” Garden History, vol. 30, no. 2, 2002, pp. 206–220.
Note: Description and style of botanical nomenclature based on the original sources.