Colour aquatint and engraving1 June 1801
About the work
This illustration is from botanical author Dr Robert John Thornton’s great work: ‘New Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus’ (1799-1807). Thornton spared no expense in the production of his lavish publication, better known by its 1804 title ‘The Temple of Flora’. Although based on a dissertation about the sexes of plants by Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Thornton added his own notes before publishing the work in parts. ‘Temple of Flora’ was the most sumptuous botanical publication ever produced. Thornton, who had trained as a dentist, practised botanical painting himself but only included one of his own designs, ‘Roses’, within the work. He commissioned several artists, including Philip Reinagle, Peter Henderson and Abraham Pether, to produce illustrations set against landscapes or allegoric backgrounds. In some instances the backgrounds do not relate to the flowers depicted. For example, Reinagle’s illustration of the Jamaican ‘Night-Blooming Cereus’ is set against a moonlit view of an English church tower. The high production costs of the publication led to financial disaster for Thornton and he died in poverty.
About the artist
Natural history painter Sydenham Teast Edwards was born in Monmouthshire, south east Wales; the son of a Welsh schoolmaster. He studied botanical painting under William Curtis and supplied illustrations to Curtis’s two publications: ‘Botanical Magazine’ and ‘Flora Londinensis’. However, after a falling out with Curtis, he began his own magazine, the ‘Botanical Register’. Edwards published ‘Cynographia Britannica’ in 1800 and ‘The New British Flora’ in 1812. He also illustrated R. W. Dickinson’s ‘Complete Dictionary of Practical Gardening’ and made drawings for ‘Sportsman’s Magazine’. Edwards lived at addresses in Lambeth, south London, Brompton and Chelsea. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1792 to 1813. He died in Chelsea in 1819.
Thomas Warner was a line and mixed-method engraver of plates for Dr. Thornton’s ‘Temple of Flora’. He also produced small bookplates.