Priscilla Susan Bury, Pl. 39 Cinnabar-flowered Amaryllis, A Selection of Hexandrian Plants, 1831–34, hand-colored aquatint engraving

$3,200 this week only (list price $4,800). Offer expires 9-18-2017

Laura Oppenheimer

Priscilla Susan Bury, Pl. 39 Cinnabar-flowered Amaryllis, A Selection of Hexandrian Plants1831–34hand-colored aquatint engraving

This week only, enjoy a substantial discount on Pl. 39, Cinnabar-flowered Amaryllis, Amaryllis purpurea, major (title on plate and Bot. Mag. 1430)an exquisite hand-colored aquatint engraving after the watercolor drawing by Mrs. Edward Bury, from her celebrated work, A Selection of Hexandrian Plants, Belonging to the Natural Orders Amaryllidae and Liliacae. The folio was engraved and hand-colored by Robert Havell, Jr, the same engraver who produced the plates for John James Audubon’s monumental Birds of America.

In the text, Bury refers to Bot. Mag. 1430, published in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, 1812. In Bot. Mag. 1430, it is noted that this plant is "Native of the Cape of Good Hope, whence it was introduced by Mr. Masson in 1774." Mrs. Bury states in her description below that the bulb of the plant she depicted in the plate was sent from Rio. Noticing that the two bulbs originated from different hemispheres, raises a question regarding whether both plants are actually the same species. In 1753 when Carl Linnaeus created the type species Amaryllis, both the South African and South American plants were considered to be of the same genus. In the 20th century they were separated into two genera. 

Mrs. Bury's text description is as follows:

From a bulb sent from Rio by William Harrison, Esq. In the Botanical Register, No. 552, is a figure of the minor variety of this Lily, Which appears to have been the plant most frequently cultivated, and best known under the name Amaryllis purpurea. The author of the Botanical Register says the, "the large variety a. (of which the present subject is a fine specimen) has the flowers nearly twice the size of b. and is very scarce in our collections. The webbed intervals which connect the lower part of the segments at the faux, are also transparent, instead of opaque as in the minor." These membranes are said to ally this plant to the Pancratatiums; Mr. Herbert makes it a distinct genus under the name Vallota, which he says was given by Mr. Salisbury, and has been adopted in France. The appellation Purpurea can be merited solely by the strong purple mark at the base of the flower stem and leaves; the flower being, as it is very appropriately termed in Curtis' Magazine, "Cinnabar-colour," without the slightest tinge of purple.

Wilfred Blunt, author of The Art of Botanical Illustration, writes, “Mrs. Edward Bury…was the artist of the impressive Selection of Hexandrian Plants (1831–34), certainly one of the most effective color-plate folios of its period…. The “Hexandrian” flowers—lilies, crinums, pancratiums and hippeastriums—are executed in fine-grained aquatint, partly printed in colour, and retouched by hand.”

In his work, Flower and Fruit Prints of the 18th and early nineteenth centuries (1970), Gordon Dunthorne refers to Bury prints from this folio as "Finely coloured plates of perfect technique, very decorative and "modern" in feeling, of amaryllis, crinum, pancratium and lilies. Some plates show the bulb and stalk, leaves and blossom."  

In perfect condition with pristine color and large margins. Drawn by Mrs. E. Bury, Liverpool. Engraved, printed, and colored by R. Havell, London; elephant folio size, 23.75 x 19.125 inches.

Reference: Curtis's Botanical Magazine..., Vol. XXXV, 1812,1430

$3,200 this week only (list price $4,800). Offer expires 9-18-17.

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Mrs. Edward Bury (c. 1799–1870), née Priscilla Susan Falkner, was the daughter of a well-placed family. Exotic plants were grown in the hot houses at her family’s estate, Fairfield, near Liverpool, where as a young girl, she began painting flowers. The Victorian tradition viewed women illustrating flowers as “genteel, diverting and instructive study [so] that the fair sex could find amusement….” The talented Bury’s “Hexandrian” watercolor flower “portraits”, as she called them, were of lilies, crinums, pancratiums, and hippeastrums.

Bury was encouraged in her botanical painting pursuits by a local botanist, William Rowe, and her distinguished friends, the zoologist William Swainson and William Roscoe. She also received technical expertise from the staff at the Liverpool Botanical Gardens. Unlike her contemporaries, Pierre-Joseph Redouté or Pierre-Antoine Poiteau, Bury was not trained as a botanist or artist, yet she occupies a singular position in botanical art.

Her remarkable contribution, A Selection of Hexandrian Plants, Belonging to the Natural Orders Amaryllidae and Liliacae, depicts flowers with six stamens. Of elephant-size, it is the largest scale, most unusual and rarest of all nineteenth-century botanicals. Comprised of 51 aquatint engravings produced in ten parts from 1831 to 1834 by renowned London engraver, Robert Havell, Jr., these rich aquatint engravings are partly printed in color and partly hand-colored. Also the publisher of this work, Havell produced Bury’s folio at the same time that he was engraving Audubon’s plates. John James Audubon was listed among the subscribers to this splendid nineteenth-century botanical folio. Only 80 subscriptions were sold.

References: Wilfred Blunt, The Art of Botanical Illustration an Illustrated History, 1994, p. 248–50; Gordon Dunthorne, Flower and Fruit Prints, 1970, pages 77, 184.

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