Leaf of the Day: Pummelo, Pumelo, Pomelo.. whatever

When I was writing about the Contorted Orange the other day (here) I felt sure that Leu would have a Pummelo. They would just have to have a specimen of this very early citrus, and sure enough there it was, with many other varieties in the citrus garden and another “windfall” for me yesterday as one large fruit had fallen on the ground. It is huge. I have a picture of the fruit on the tree but also this one on a plate with a regular sized lemon and a pencil so you can see how absoutely enormous it is.

This one is the well named Goliath Pummelo, Citrus maxima, and to recap a little, it is one of the first 4 citrus fruits from which the modern varieties are descended. It is thought that the basic orange we all know and love, is a cross between this monster and a mandarin. Little and large makes medium I guess. It was considered more a curiosity than a good eating fruit and something of a talking point for tropical fruit displays. A tricky addition to Carmen Miranda’s topknots though!

Additionally, Wiki tells me that “The pomelo is also known as a shaddock, after an English sea captain, Captain Shaddock, who introduced the seed to the West Indies in the 17th century from the Malay Archipelago.”
I will, annoyingly, now remember this little bit of trivia, as I can’t get Tintin’s Captain Haddock out of my head.

But the leaves, the leaves are a nice surprise, not quite as simple as a normal citrus these have a winged part to the lower, a winged petiole to be exact.
A very worthy leaf of the day.

I had also forgotten that there was a pummelo in the “Amazing Rare Things” exhibition (see my other posts here), how could I ! Also a Buddha’s hand citrus which I wrote about before here.

Both are attributed to Vincenzo Leonardi 1621-c.1646 who was producing drawings for the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo and provided illustrations for Giovanni Battist Ferrari’s “Hesperides” of 1646, a treatise on citrus cultivation. It is fascinating and the digitised version of the book is online here

You can see the slightly winged shape at the base of the leaf here but it is much more pronounced in my leaf from Leu.

The Pumello.

Pummelo, whole fruit and half …c1640

And Vincenzo’s drawing of the Buddhas Hand citron, known here as the “digitated lemon”.

Digitated Lemon …c 1640

There is something about these wonderful old images which some modern works lack..I feel we sometimes go for perfection rather than character, something I will try to keep in mind.


Pummelo Leaf

Leaf of the Day: Catching up..and a Leonardo moment.

Well .. I´m back in Florida and catching up on all the notes and drawings and postings from my UK trip. I managed to incorporate Kew Gardens, West Dean, Lincolnshire, London, relatives, and friends old and new, and made a few drawings too. The courses were excellent, the countryside was beautiful, all the exhibitions were inspirational and the weather was kind.. what more could you ask.
I have quite a few posts to make so I apologise in advance to my readers if your inbox gets a bit clogged..

On Saturday I had returned to the Amazing Rare Things Exhibition at Buckingham Palace to have another look at the beautiful work of the natural history artists chosen from the Queen’s collection. This time I took the audio guide which is included in the price of the ticket and is well worth the listen. It really puts everything in context and having David Attenborough with you, sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm would surely persuade even the staunchest abstract artist to appreciate the skill and beauty of these paintings. While I was looking again at the tiny detailed Leonardo drawings made in red chalk I noticed that on the drawing of the Star of Bethlehem, which dominates the page, there is a little sketch of a euphorbia, sun spurge.. just like the ones I had drawn only 5 days previously here .. A strange coincidence from a distance of 500 years and while mine cannot be compared, its nice to think we both found this funny little plant worth a quick study.

These were apparently made as studies for plants to be included in the lost painting of “Leda and the Swan”.
This, one of 2 known copies,is from the Borghese gallery in Rome dated approximately 1510 to 1520. It is impossible to see if there are in fact any euphorbia amongst the flowers at the base of the painting I guess I will just have to go to Rome to see for myself.


Leondardo’s Euphorbia ( and mine)

Star of Bethlehem, Wood Anemone and Sun Spurge c 1505-1511

a detail….

and mine …

Leaf of the Day: Amazing Rare Things Exhibition

The day of the Embassy visit for the my USA visa which after a 3 hour wait was, I am glad to say successful. London is hot and beautiful, I walked from my hotel in Gower St along the Mall and through St James’ Park and dropped into the Mall portrait exhibition and on to the Amazing Rare Things exhibition housed in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace.

The exhibition was wonderful, the Leonardo drawings were especially exquisite and so tiny, and the fierce upside down sloth that I mentioned in a previous post was there too.
Mark Catesby’s work was particularly interesting to me as he drew and painted in Florida in the early 1700´s. He was another of those early and dedicated painters who recorded the natural history of America with both skill and charm. For me, again, the attraction of his work is in the combination of the study itself, with some aspect of of its surroundings or a companion plant or insect. He was a self-taught artist who travelled to America from England with the help of both a small legacy, and his sister who was married to the secretary of the Governor of Virginia. His comprehensive notes watercolours and collected specimens of the flora and fauna were the basis for his great book of engravings.
Making his watercolour studies directly in the field he later said that

‘In designing the Plants, I always did them while fresh and just gather’d: And the Animals, particularly the Birds, I painted them while alive… and gave them their Gestures peculiar to every kind of Bird…’.
He had a particular problem with fish
” which do not retain their colours when out of their element, I painted at different times, having a succession of them procur’d while the former lost their colours.”
but the resulting painting of the Great Hogfish was probably worth the sacrifice.

One very poignant drawing of his is that of the passenger pigeon, once so numerous that huge flocks containing millions of birds flocks flew over the prairies of North America, but with human settlement this once numerous bird suddenly declined and sadly the last lonely passenger pigeon name Martha died in Cincinnati Zoo in 1914..

Maria Sibylla Meriam’s work is superb..the detail incredible and the design very idiosyncratic. I will return to her in another post but the exuberant spectacled caiman tangling with the coral snake has to be one of the most arresting images in the exhibition.. wonderful.

Also, there is work by Alexander Marshall from his wonderful 30 year project, his floreligium, which again, I will get round to exploring in more depth.. but with my great affection for all long dogs this had to be my favourite drawing of his.

All the images can be seen on the excellent website for this exhibition here

Leaf of the Day: Peacock Iris and an Upsidedown Sloth

The trials of the natural history artist ..the problem with models.
I chose this pretty iris to draw today as I needed to try a more delicate flower with the coloured pencils. It is dietes bicolor, the peacock iris or Spanish iris.
If I had been doing this drawing for myself and without the botanical painting course in mind I would have put in a dark background to set off the pretty delicate colours and to show the flower as we would normally see it. I was in two minds whether or not to put one in. There are certain conventions or purist schools of thought that would not include any background and there is a distinction between Botanical Art and Botanical illustration. Botanical Illustration is more scientific and is usually for the purpose of identification of a species. Botanical Art allows for more personal interpretation whilst still keeping to the principles of accuracy and detail.
I have spent quite a few hours this week thinking about all this and looking hard at the work of contemporary botanical artists. I do see back grounds now. I may add one to this piece later.
Sadly I wont be able to use the same flower as it has now defiantly curled up its petals into a tight fist and is about to drop off its stem. One day that’s all I had. I am getting very tempted to use photographs. I am going to write about this in another post because its an interesting discussion for artists and for buyers of art.

Identification of species pre camera, of course would rely on seeing the actual object or someone making a drawing from it or sometimes working blind from just a verbal description.
There is an exhibition at the Queens Gallery in Buckingham Palace London “Amazing Rare Things” created in collaboration with David Attenborough. It is an exhibition of Natural History drawings which date from the late fifteenth century to the early eighteenth century, “a period when European knowledge of the world’s flora and fauna was transformed by voyages of discovery to Africa, Asia and the Americas. Through painstaking examination and description, Leonardo da Vinci, the collector Cassiano dal Pozzo, Wenceslaus Hollar, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian and Mark Catesby hoped to comprehend the natural riches of an ever-expanding world. “
DO go to the website ( above) to see the work even if you can’t get to the exhibition..(and there is a book too.)

David Attenborough describes beautifully the dilemma which must have faced the pre-camera artist here in relation to dal Pozzo’s Sloth. Dal Pozzo commissioned artists to draw for him, probably from specimens and skins, so have a kind thought for the artist confronted with the skin of a 3 toed sloth. He did his best and gave us a fiercesome beast with sharp teeth teetering along on its tip toes. How was he to know this strange creature spent its life suspended from a tree branch.. what an absurd notion!

Collection of
Cassiano dal Pozzo
Artist unknown 1626

But it’s lovely, isn’t it .. just for the very fact of its careful and earnest inaccuracy. The exhibition continues until September, its on my list.

Peacock Iris