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The Force of Flowers: Bringing the Outdoors In at Versailles

Nicole Jeanne Cuenot, Columbia University, Summer Fellow 2009

During my time at Dumbarton Oaks, I achieved my goal of attaining a better understanding of the flower and landscape information and images that circulated in Europe during the seventeenth century. This was accomplished predominantly through accessing resources of the Rare Book Collection, which filled an essential and indispensable role in my research. For example, I had previously examined a copy of Claude Mollet's Theatre des plans et jardinages dedicated to Nicolas Fouquet in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dumbarton Oaks' volume, however, was Fouquet's personal copy, thereby validating my assertion that it was grand seigneurs and courtiers, not just professional gardeners, who would have collected and read these materials. Additionally, many volumes contained period annotations, providing documentation of how contemporary readers perceived and interacted with these texts through augmentation or correction. While I benefited most from Linda Lott's knowledge of the collection, I was delighted to occasionally supplement the Rare Book Collection's files with pertinent references—such as the Bibliotheque nationale's catalogue entries for a print in Nicolas Robert's Recueil de plantes gravées—that ultimately provided revised publication dates for two books. Perhaps the most important aspect of my time here was the unique opportunity to benefit professionally, academically, and personally from the scholars and staff. Their convivial interest and critiques have undoubtedly ensured a more rigorously conceived and executed product, and I am immensely grateful for their contribution in enriching my work and personal life.