A princely pleasure garden with a spectacular greenhouse

Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens

Bildnis der Karoline Luise von Baden; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Urheber unbekannt
THE PLANT LOVER

KAROLINE LUISE

VON BADEN

Karoline Luise von Hessen-Darmstadt (1723–1783), wife of Margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden, was likely the most famous woman at the Karlsruhe court. She was especially interested in botany, and yet, she never saw the new botanical gardens.

François Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, portrait by Nicolas de Largillière. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

François Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire.

WHY WAS SHE CALLED "BADEN'S JANE OF ALL TRADES"?

Karoline Luise had probably the most varied interests of any woman at the Baden court. She acquired more than 3,300 scientific volumes–and read them–covering art, literature, theology, history, natural sciences and medicine. Karoline Luise painted and was a passionate collector. Her lively correspondence with writers and scholars included personal contact with Voltaire who held her in high regard. Philosopher Johan Caspar Lavater called her the "Jane of all Trades and Many Questions" in 1782.

WHAT ROLE DID SHE PLAY IN THE BOTANICAL GARDENS?

Karoline Luise promoted the establishment of a modern plant collection. She introduced new species and had the inventory organized scientifically based on the system created by Swedish botanist Carl von Linné (1707–1778) in 1735. She had also planned a printed volume based on his plant system, but it failed due to lack of funding. In 1775, Linné named a newly discovered plant after her. Karoline Luise and Karl Friedrich invited their first significant botanist, Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter, to court in 1765.

Portrait of Margravine Karoline Luise, co-founder of the Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens. Image: Wikipedia, in the public domain

Her collections are part of the Karlsruhe museums.

WHAT REMAINS OF KAROLINE LUISE IN KARLSRUHE TODAY?

Parts of Karoline Luise's extensive collections can still be seen today at the Karlsruhe museums. Her paintings by Dutch and French masters of the 17th and 18th centuries form the basis of the Staatliche Kunsthalle art museum collection and her natural history cabinet formed the basis of the Karlsruhe State Museum of Natural History. Karlsruhe's reputation for having an enlightened court in the second half of the 18th century is also credited to her.

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