21 Apr 2012

Plants, Illustrated

Mirabelle has always been fascinated by the botanical plates, prints and illustrations produced by those unsung artists and acute observers with an eye for detail and a propensity for translating the object of their desire realistically in photograph-like accuracy. More often than not, those illustrators happened to be biologists. This post is a tribute to their art and an opportunity for us to rediscover their often-overlooked talents.

Sources: (1) 'Citrus' print (1770-77) by artist John Miller (1715-1794), part of the Victoria & Albert Museum Collection, in London. According to the V&A: 'Miller's book, An Illustration to the Sexual System of Linnaeus (1770-7), was an attempt to explain and promote the system of classification devised by the famous botanist Carl Linnaeus. This was based on the number and relation of the reproductive parts of flowers. The book was published in various combinations of plates, coloured and uncoloured. This is one of several proof plates, printed before the lettering was added. Miller's publication gives in a single plate a complete account of the plant's habit, structure and life cycle. Linnaeus himself praised the illustrations extravagantly as 'the most beautiful and accurate . . . since the beginning of the world'. (2) 'Plumeria' (Germany, 1744) by Georg Dionysus Ehret (1708-70), watercolour and bodycolour, available to purchase from V&A Prints. (3) 'Papaya, Carica Papaya' (1726), hand-coloured engraving by Maria Sybilla Merian (1647-1717), 'a respected scientist, artist and explorer in what was very much a man’s world'. © Natural History Museum (London). (4) 'Orchid, Dipladenia Crassinoda' (1837), by Samuel Holden (active 1830-50), watercolour, available to purchase from V&A Prints.

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