Head picture of the Iconoteque

Veit Wittrock, who was Professor Bergianus during the years 1879-1914, was an enthusiastic and assiduous collector of portraits depicting famous botanists. He himself gave the following explanation of his interest: “To me it seemed as if the personalities of the botanical writers, whose works I had before me, became considerably clearer once I
got the opportunity to study these portraits and make myself familiar with the appearances of the writers.”

The portrait collection hung on the walls of Wittrock’s study so that he, in his own wording, “would be able to always enjoy their company.”

The Iconoteque, as the portrait collection is called, grew as a result of positive answers to Wittrock’s “begging letters” which were sent to botanists all over Europe. Portraits of botanists no longer alive were gathered from several sources. The Iconoteque is a varied collection, with depictions in the form of woodcuts, copperplates, photographs and commemorative medals.

Picture showing parts of the collection hung in Wittrock’s study in the Professor’s residence at the
Part of the portrait collection hung in Wittrock’s study in the Professor’s residence at the Bergius Botanic Garden.

Depicted in the portrait collection are Swedish as well as internationally renowned botanists. Men are in majority - not surprising considering the scarce opportunities for women to study at that time, but nevertheless a couple of women are among the portraits. As you would expect, Olof Rudbeck the Elder, Linnaeus and the Bergius brothers are
among the portraits, but also a considerable choice of ancient scientists such as Aristotle and Theoprastos Eresios, both of them born around 300 B.C.



Caricatures and medals

In addition to the portraits, the Iconoteque also includes a number of caricatures of botanists, a large number of press cuttings, and letters from botanists all over the world. Moreover, there is an assortment of jubilee medals. Coined mainly in bronze or silver, these medals commemorate botanists such as Linnaeus and his disciples, Thunberg and
Solander. One of them portrays Wittrock himself and another one was coined in acknowledgement of the glass trader Edvard Andersson, who donated a large sum of money to the garden for the erection of a Mediterranean conservatory.

In 1899 Veit Wittrock handed over the Iconoteque to the Bergianus Foundation. By that time the collection included around 700 pictures together with information about the botanists depicted. As the years went by the collection grew bigger, partly as a result of purchases, partly due to the many gifts donated to the collection. In 1905 Wittrock
published the second illustrated catalogue of the contents in the publication series Acta Horti Bergiani. By then, there were 4,083 portraits registered in the catalogue. When Wittrock died in 1914 the Iconoteque included altogether 5,658 pictures.

Fifteen years before his death Wittrock assigned the collection away to the Bergius Foundation by a deed of gift. Hence the entire collection is today held in trust by the Foundation. At present a project is under way with the aim of making the Iconoteque available to the public via the homepage of the Bergius Botanic Garden.