Rød turbanlilje (Lilium chalcedonicum L.), KKSgb2947/92.

a: Lilium chalcedonicum; (rød turbanlilje), smalbladet; b: Lilium chalcedonicum; (rød turbanlilje), KKSgb2947/92.

Fritillaria imperialis; (kejserkrone), gul, KKSgb2947/84.

World views and flower paintings

The artists’ choice of flowers and the way in which they are painted reflect a specific approach to the world. The way the artist views the world affects his rendition of the flower.

You see (and paint) what you think is important. If you do not think that the stamens of a flower are important you might well leave them out of your painting. Just think of how a child draws a sunflower: the colours black and yellow determine whether the flower drawn looks like a sunflower.

Two world views collide

The Gottorfer Codex shows two different world views colliding. People used to understand the world through symbols, but in the 17th century new ideas and discoveries within astronomy, physics, biology, and anatomy caused a break with the old, symbol-laden world view. 

The new, rather more scientific approach to the world meant that Hans Simon Holtzbecker, striving for maximum verisimilitude, also painted in the roots of the plants. But even though Holtzbecker strove for a scientifically correct depiction of the flowers he has not entirely abandoned the symbolic world view. In some places he includes petals that look like little men and birds in a manner that is anything but naturalistic.

Part of a flower painting from the Gottorfer Codex

The album of flower paintings known as the Gottorfer Codex marks a break between two different views of the world: the symbolic and the scientific. On the one hand Hans Simon Holtzbecker has included the unsightly roots in order to be faithful to nature, and on the other hand the paintings also include symbolic birds whose meaning we do not understand.

Updated: 26.apr.2018
Webmaster: Webmaster
SMK Logo