Pierre Vallet, gardener and court painter, was born at Orléans,
but moved to Paris where he became a skilled drafstman and engraver. He worked
in the royal gardens and also received a court appointment. At the Royal
Gardens of the Louvre, which had been established by Henry IV in 1590, he
became acquainted with the director, Jean Robin (1550-1629), and it was from
this relationship that his florilegium was created.
Le Jardin du Roy trés Chrestien Henry IV, published in 1608,
was dedicated to his Queen, Marie de Médicis, and it was intended as a
pattern-book for embroidery; the Queen had already established the fashion,
among her ladies-in-waiting, of using floral designs in their needle work.
Vallet’s book, which was the first of its kind, was botanically accurate and
included seventy-five plates, drawn from living plants in the King’s Garden
and in Robin’s personal garden. Among the plants displayed were rare specimens
from Spain and Africa; these had been collected by Robin’s son, Vespasien,
on his botanizing expedition of 1603. The florilegium (the word signified a
book describing a collection of living ornamental garden plants) of Vallet
deceived high praise in its own era, and served as the model for similar
botanical works of the 17th century.
Robert F. Erickson