The Gottorfer Codex: An astounding bouquet reveals itself

365 gorgeous floral paintings from a 17th-century castle are being restored page by page. This work will be unfolding in the conservation department at the National Gallery of Denmark over a 4-year period

Four large volumes filled with flowers
The Gottorfer Codex is a four-volume book in which every page features a painting of flowers and edible or medicinal plants. The four volumes consist of a total of 365 pages depicting 1,180 illustrations of flowers, shrubs and fruits. There are between one and ten motifs on every page. All the paintings are painted with gouache on calf parchment, and their boldness of colour is exceptionally well-preserved.

The painter and Gottorp Castle
The name Gottorfer Codex refers to the origin of the paintings it contains. From 1649 to 1659, Duke Frederic III of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf employed the floral painter Hans Simon Holtzbecker to paint the many beautiful flowers in Gottorf Castle’s gardens and flower beds. The four floral works are entered as “war spoils, 1749” in the records of the National Gallery of Denmark.

From warehouse to exhibition wall and web
The taut binding of the paintings means that it is difficult to turn the pages without damaging the paint film. In addition, only one page can be viewed at a time. For that reason, the works are now being made available on two fronts. First, the paintings are being removed from the book bindings and each mounted in their own passe-partout. They are then digitally photographed so that they can be admired on the museum’s website.

Learn more about the project
From the menu on the right you can watch videos and read about the conservation of the Codex, read about the research and the Gottorp Castle garden, and see the leaves that have been restored. On the conservation department’s blog you can also read about our other projects and post comments.

Open workshop
In spring of 2009, the delicate gouaches underwent restoration in an open workshop in one of the museum’s exhibition rooms. Here the public was able to follow the small but visible advances made day by day and gain insight into the conservators' painstaking work. We are planning another open workshop later on in the project, so look for updates on this website.

The Gottorfer Codex Lexicon
A number of specialised terms are used in conjunction with the restoration. You can find these terms explained in our Gottorfer Codex Lexicon. If there are words you would like to see added, please email

This project has been supported by:
Stiftung Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen Schloß Gottorf is co-financing the conservation and digitisation of the Gottorfer CodexYou can visit the website of Gottorp Castle here.

See the flowers in Gottorfer Codex

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Updated: 26.apr.2018
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