Heirloom Bulbs Pictured in 17th-Century Pietra Dura

Created sometime in the second half of the 1600s, this striking artwork is an example of pietra dura, an expensive, mosaic-like inlay in which thin slabs of semi-precious stones such as jasper, malachite, and lapis lazuli are fitted together seamlessly to create decorative panels for cabinets and table-tops.

Now in the collection of Nelahozeves Castle in the Czech Republic, the piece shows flowers that were new and expensive at that time — and so little changed since then that they are instantly recognizable today — including a crown imperial, sparsely-flowered blue Roman hyacinths, and a tulip that actually could be ‘Lac van Rijn’.


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