Nature in pictures
During the Renaissance, naturalist thought began turning towards careful reflection, then towards plant reproduction. Brushstrokes and paint palettes were applied to the benefit of botany so that the likenesses of plants could be reproduced as faithfully as possible. Their structure, the organisation of their branches and flowers, and the nuances of their shades were deciphered, then committed to canvas or vellum, the skin of stillborn calves that was sought after by calligraphists for its finesse and whiteness. In 1630, Gaston d’Orléans, the brother of Louis XIII, wanted to produce a lasting record of plants grown in his garden in Blois. He therefore set the painter Nicolas Robert the task of copying them onto this precious material. He thus began the Vellum Collection, the first collection of vellums in France. In 1660, when Louis XIV inherited them, he named Nicolas Robert "First painter of the King for Miniatures". This collection of paintings went on to be extended as time went by, thanks to the efforts of Nicolas Robert's successors. By the Revolution, there were 65 portfolios, which were given to the Natural History Museum in Paris, and the collection was expanded throughout the 19th century. There are currently 7,000 vellums in the museum's collection, which are listed in the National Heritage Register).
In 1996, the Klorane Botanical Foundation helped to enrich this exceptional collection by giving the museum nine original plant vellums, painted by the Master Artist Marie-Pierre Le Sellin.