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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Botanical Feast for the Eye: The Prestele Exhibit / February 27, 2006 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Composite of four botanical images: Each links to a downloadable 300-dpi version Click to download 300-dpi version of 'Bourgeat' Click to download 300-dpi version of 'Tucker' Click to download 300-dpi version of 'Zengi' Click to download 300-dpi version of 'Auburn'
Four botanical watercolors of William Henry Prestele. Clockwise from top left: "Auburn" apple, "Zengi" persimmon, "Bourgeat" quince and "Tucker" plum.
Click an image to download a 300-dpi version of it in .zip format. Original images courtesy National Agricultural Library.

Botanical Feast for the Eye: The Prestele Exhibit

By Len Carey
February 27, 2006

Winter blues are already giving way to the hues of spring and summer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library (NAL) in Beltsville, Md., with the March 1 opening of a significant exhibition of botanical illustration art titled Inspiration and Translation: Botanical and Horticultural Lithographs of Joseph Prestele and Sons.

The 112-piece exhibition features original watercolors and lithographic prints by Joseph Prestele and sons, plus an array of other items that document the family's work for botanists and horticulturalists of the late 1800s. A catalog of the exhibition is for sale at the NAL.

Joseph Prestele (1796-1867), a botanical painter and master lithographer, immigrated to the United States from Bavaria in the 1840s. His sons—Joseph Jr., Gottlieb and William Henry—also became botanical artists. In fact, William Henry Prestele (1838-1895) was the first botanical artist hired by the USDA's Division of Pomology, in 1887. The Prestele family produced botanical illustrations for USDA and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as for the nursery and seed trade. Their watercolors and lithographs are highest-quality scientific illustrations, as well as fine art.

The exhibition is the result of an NAL collaboration with the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. It draws from the collections of both institutions, along with the Smithsonian, and also includes items from the Amana Heritage Society and Prestele descendent Marcelee Konish. Before arriving at the NAL, the exhibition opened at the Hunt Institute in September 2005.

The National Agricultural Library is located at 10301 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville. The exhibition will be on view from March 1 through May 31 in the first-floor reading room on weekdays, except federal holidays, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. The NAL is the largest and most accessible agricultural library in the world and is part of USDA's principal research agency, the Agricultural Research Service.

To learn more about the Prestele exhibition and similar collections, visit the NAL Special Collections Unit website. Tours and presentations about the Prestele exhibition may be arranged through NAL's Special Collections Unit by calling (301) 504-6503, or via email to speccoll@nal.usda.gov.

Last Modified: 2/27/2006
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