John Tradescant the Younger, Small portrait oil on silver, c. 1600s. Purchased with the kind assistance from the Beecoft Trust, the Art Fund and private donations.
The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary
Helen Allingham, The South Border at Munstead Wood, watercolour, c. 1900.
The Garden Museum's collection began with the acquisition of the diarist John Evelyn's copy of the Museaum Tradescantianum, the catalogue to a cabinet of curiosities - the first public museum in England. This cabinet was owned by the celebrated seventeenth century gardeners and plant hunters, the John Tradescants, who are buried in the churchyard of St-Mary-at-Lambeth church, the home of the Garden Museum. In 2013, we also acquired a seventeenth century portrait oil on silver of John Tradescant the Younger. This miniature was copied from an original portrait of John Tradescant the Younger now in the Ashmolean Museum and attributed to Thomas De Critz (1607 - 1653) and may have been commissioned and worn by his widow, Hester, as an item of jewellery.
The Museum developed its collection over the subsequent three decades and now has a number of historic garden tools, diaries, and catalogues which tell the story of the British garden from 1600 to the present day. The Museum's photograph collection is one of the best records of the domestic garden, illustrating how it has been used and the changing fashions in design from the dawn of photography to the present day. The Museum also has a number of rare books, including a sixteenth century hortus siccus which once belonged to the botanist, Dr John Fothergill.
The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, a curiosity thought to be an animal and a vegetable hybrid, is another of the Museum's most important artefacts. The lamb is actually a fern which grows in central Asia, but it's animal-like appearance gave rise to its early renown as a mythical beast. There are only two such specimens in the country and they give a fascinating insight into the contents of the cabinet of curiosities.
The Museum's collection of art began with the acquisition of Helen Allingham's South Border at Munstead Wood (c.1900), a watercolour depicting the celebrated garden belonging to and designed by Gertrude Jekyll. This watercolour illustrates the colour theory and planting of one of Britain's greatest designers, and how this was interpreted by Jekyll's friend the watercolourist, Allingham. Since then, the Museum has developed its art collection to include Harold Gilman's Portrait of a Black Gardener, as well as a number of artworks representing the garden, purchased with the support of a Hertitage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures acquisition grant.
Most recently, the Museum acquired an eighteenth century oil painting of the garden at Painshill. Attributed to George Arnald, we are continuing to undertake research into this painting, which illustrates many of the features typical of the Picturesque landscape.