Painted by numbers: decoding Ferdinand Bauer's Flora Graeca colour code
Outside of the natural sciences, the work of Ferdinand Bauer (1760-1826), the pre-eminent eighteenth century natural history painter is little known. However, his botanical and zoological paintings on paper are considered to be among the finest in the world. Of particular interest is the unusual drawing and painting technique he used, recording colour information about specimens by annotating preliminary pencil sketches with numerical colour codes to be painted at a much later stage referring directly to a painted colour chart. This talk will discuss Bauer’s botanical illustrations for the Flora Graeca (1806-1840), one of the most lavish Flora’s ever published, the materials and techniques he used, and new research by the Bodleian’s Conservation Research department to identify Bauer’s 18th century palette, and recreate the lost colour chart that holds the key to fully understanding Bauer’s considerable expertise as an artist.