Original Woodblock for Cardus Vulgaris from Mattioli’s Herbal Sold for $16,000


Original woodblock for Cardus vulgaris, from Mattioli's Herbal

The original woodblock depicting what is better known today as Carline Thistle in one of the most important Renaissance herbals has been sold by Christie's for $16,380.

Produced by Giorgio Liberale and Wolfgang Meyerpeck c.1562 for Pietro Andrea Mattioli's herbal, the pear woodblock (221 x 160mm) was used in the first edition to use the large format series of woodcuts in 1562 at Prague.

A 1565 copy of the herbal was sold in the same Christie's Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts auction for $27,720 with the full series of large striking woodcuts designed by Meyerpeck and Liberale. Although ostensibly a commentary on the work of the ancient physician Dioscorides, Mattioli himself played an important role in the identification of plants from differing traditions, and the text was updated throughout his lifetime and printed many times. The first illustrated edition appeared, in Latin, in 1554 with a fine series of quarter-page woodcuts, many of which served as models for the grand series of large woodcuts.

According to Christie's: "These outstanding illustrations by Giorgio Liberale and Wolfgang Meyerpeck represent the apogee of the art of scientific illustration in the 16th century. They were the culmination of technical virtuosity in botanical woodcut design."