Dr. Robert Thornton, Pl. 21 The Superb Lily, Temple of Flora, 1797 – 1810, hand-colored engraving
Acquire Pl. 21, Superb Lily, a magnificent work from Dr. Robert Thornton’s celebrated Temple of Flora, available this week only at a substantial discount.
"Thornton appears to have been confident that it would sell well, since he had two plates of it engraved, one by Ward and one by Earlom, both executed in mezzotint. They differ little from one another. ...The picture does full justice to this noble plant and the Superb Lily is one of the most popular of Thornton's plates."
—Temple of Flora by Robert Thornton, Introduction by Ronald King, New York Graphic Society, 1981, page 88.
Hand-colored mezzotint and aquatint engraving, printed in color and finished by hand by the English mezzotint engraver, Richard Earlom (1743–1822), after a painting by Philip Reinagle (1749–1833). Published in London by Thornton on June 1,1799. In perfect condition with excellent color, 24 x 19 inches.
Reference: Flower and Fruit Prints of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Gordon Dunthorne, 1938, page 249.
$12,500 this week only (list price $18,000). Offer expires 7-10-17.
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.