Dr. Robert Thornton, Pl. 22 The Dragon Arum, Temple of Flora, 1797 – 1810, hand-colored engraving
This week only, enjoy a substantial discount on Pl. 22, The Dragon Arum, Dracunculus vulgaris, an exquisite hand-colored engraving after the painting by the English artist Peter Charles Henderson, from Dr. Robert Thornton’s celebrated Temple of Flora. Henderson produced 14 paintings for this work.
"Although it is in reality an innocuous plant which loves a patch of sandy loam on the sunny side of a south-facing wall, and will do you no harm unless you eat its berries, our ancestors regarded the Dragon Arum with horror. This aversion arose, no doubt, partly because of the poisonous nature of the berries, partly because of its sinister appearance and partly because of its unpleasant odour. The stalks of the stem of the plant, which grow to about three feet high, are dull in colour, which gives the plant a funereal air consonant with the smell of decay which it emits and the known properties of its deadly berries. Thornton gives full play to these horrific properties in his description of the plant, knowing that his audience, spellbound by the fashionable gothic novel, loved the delicious thrill of gothic horror which the plant could unleash. Peter Henderson does his best to convey the feeling in his picture, in which the black and threatening clouds brood over the hills and mountains while the dark and noisome plant thrusts its unwholesome menace up from below. The picture was engraved by Ward in pure mezzotint."
—from Ronald King, The Temple of Flora by Robert Thornton, 1981, p. 90
Excellent color, hand-colored and color-printed mezzotint engraving, finished by hand engraved by Ward, published by Thornton in London on December 1, 1801-1810. Plate 22, The Dragon Arum is in perfect condition, approximately 23-1/2 x 18-1/2 inches.
$2,200 this week only (list price $3,500). Offer expires 3-5-17.
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
For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.