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Louis XIV enjoyed visiting his fruit and vegetable gardens. Enriched with exotic plants by the numerous botanical expeditions that took place during the seventeenth century, the king's gardens were a true agronomical laboratory and the admiration of the courts of Europe. They provided plant specimens for academics, illustrators and engravers.Louis XIV was passionate about the natural sciences, and in 1666, at the suggestion of his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, he founded France's Royal Academy of Sciences.
One of the tasks it undertook was to record and disseminate contemporary plant knowledge through Histoire des Plantes, a botanical history illustrated with engravings. Louis XIV's Botanical Engravings contains a collection of around sixty of the watercolour engravings produced during the reign of Louis XIV, which are now preserved in the Louvre and the French National Museum of Natural History. These exquisite illustrations allow us to familiarise ourselves with some of the plants brought back from distant lands, and to understand the contribution they made to scientific research, as well as their beneficial properties.