Ophrys Flowers

Studies by Hildegard Könighofer


Ophrys Studies

The diversity of the species in the Ophrys sphegodes and Ophrys holoserica complex in the north Adriatic region and the difficulty in differentiating them, motivated Hildegard Könighofer to make sketches of the differentiating characters. The potential of this comparative portrayal was astonishing and it gave a new impetus to proceed with this work. To this day she has produced more than 130 Ophrys portraits and the end of this serial work is not in sight.


The portrayed Ophrys flowers originate from central and south European regions: Istria and the Bay of Kvarner, Dalmatia, Styria, Burgenland, the Rhineland, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Apulia and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.


The studies were made in pencil, Indian ink, watercolour and coloured pencil. All the flowers are portrayed in the same scale. Smaller full-scale line drawings show the subject from the front and in profile.


The genus Ophrys within the Orchid family

The genus Ophrys is a large group of orchids; these species are widespread, their range stretches mainly from Europe to North Africa and to the Middle East with a special focus in the Mediterranean region.


Ophrys flowers use sexual deception to attract pollinators. They mimic female insects like bumblebees, bees, wasps or flies: the flowers resemble insect bodies in shape, colour and the more or less furry surface. Ophrys plants blossom as soon as male insects have hatched, but before the first female insects appear in the habitat. The flowers release the same seductive scent (sex pheromone) with which female insects attract the males! Fooled and stimulated in such a way, the male insect tries to mate with the flower, a phenomenon, which is called pseudocopulation. Due to this action pollen from the flower becomes attached to some part of the insect, and the pollinator inadvertently carries and transfers the pollen to the stigmas of other flowers, so that pollination and fertilization can take place. After a flower is pollinated, it changes its scent to prevent being "mated" again and again.



"Even if Hildegard Könighofer would like

her work to be seen as a craft as opposed to art,

these concepts must not be placed in strict opposition in this context.

In view of the fact that analogies exist to the natural sciences

as a result of the broadening of the conception of art,

the view of her work as art cannot be dismissed out of hand." 

(Wenzel Mraček, 2009)


Hildegard Könighofer

Born in 1954 in Rettenegg, Styria (Austria),
educated at Höhere Graphische Bundes-Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt Vienna,
freelancer since 1980,
lives and works in Graz.


Since the early 1980s the passionate nature lover and trained graphic artist draws and paints plants, insects and minerals. Meanwhile she has already published and exhibited her realistic paintings of minerals with great success. For her work she has received great respect in Austria and abroad.


In the 1990s Hildegard Könighofer drew and painted orchids which she had bought in flower shops. Additionally she annotated date of bloom, provided horticultural care and even the reason for dying. Thus, a sort of diary has developed - a folder with 90 sheets.


In 2005 she started working on line drawings for the „Flora of Istria“ and created illustrations of Istrian plant species of the genera yarrow (Achillea), birthwort (Aristolochia), wild ginger (Asarum), Centaury (Centaurium), and meadow-rue (Thalictrum). At the same time she also started the series of flower portraits of Ophrys species from the central and south European region.


In 2010, a volume with about 170 mineralogical illustrations and contributions of internationally renowned collectors and custodes was published: „Mineralienbilder von / The Mineral Art of / Hildegard Könighofer“. In fall 2010 she participated in the „13th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration“ at Hunt Institute in Pittsburgh.



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