Dr. Robert Thornton, Pl. 1 Aesculapius, Flora,Ceres and Cupid Honouring the Bust of Linnaeus, Temple of Flora, 1797 – 1810, hand-colored engraving
Acquire a magnificent work from Dr. Robert Thornton’s celebrated Temple of Flora, Pl. 1, Aesculapius, Flora, Ceres, and Cupid Honouring the Bust of Linnaeus, available this week only at a substantial discount.
Thornton said of this plate:
The introduction of Flora, Ceres, and Aesculpius, is emblematic of the advantages derived from a study of the science of Botany, as in the work of Linnaeus, to physic, agriculture, and as an elegant pursuit for ladies. Cupid is represented in allusion to the sexual system, invented by Linnaeus. The Zephyr above denotes spring, the season most favourable to the study of Botany. The fair forms of Flora and of Cupid, with the bust of Linneaus, cannot fail to disclose to the eye of the observer the magic pencil of a Russell, and the figures of Aesculapius and Ceres, the nervous and masterly strokes of an Opie.
The plate is rather dark, the background being of a laurel grove at evening.
—Temple of Flora by Robert Thornton, Introduction by Ronald King, New York Graphic Society, 1981, page 48.
Stipple, partially printed in color and finished by hand engraved by Caldwell after a painting by John Russel (1746–1806) and John Opie (1761–1807). Published in London by Thornton on April 1, 1806. In perfect condition with excellent color, 22 x 17.75 inches.
Reference: Flower and Fruit Prints of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Gordon Dunthorne, 1938, page 244.
$2,750 this week only (list price $4,000). Offer expires 10-23-17.
Dr. Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora (1798–1810), the third and final part of his New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus, is perhaps the single most famous of all florilegia. The driving force and visionary behind the creation of this great work, Thornton employed other artists and engravers to produce it. Printed in color and finished by hand, a variety of techniques were used, including aquatint, mezzotint, stipple, and line engraving. Most plates were altered at various points, resulting in as many as four distinct states for some images.
Dr. Robert Thornton (c. 1768–1837) intended to issue 70 plates dramatically and poetically illustrating Linnaeus’ discoveries about the sexual system of plants. In actuality, only 33 plates were completed before the well-stationed physician faced financial ruin. The project fell victim to Thornton’s fanatical attention to detail and changing tastes of a social elite, who had become somewhat jaded by the preponderance of great flower books created during this period. When Thornton died in 1837 his family was nearly destitute. Despite his setbacks, Thornton’s epic depictions of flowers are celebrated as one of the most significant artistic contributions to botanical art of that period.
References: Wilfred Blunt, The Art of Botanical Illustration an Illustrated History, 1994, p. 203; Gordon Dunthorne, Flower and Fruit Prints of the 18th and early 19th centuries,1970, page 250
For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.