Robert James Thornton, 1804. Mezzotint, aquatint, and stipple engraving with hand coloring. Image measures 19.5" x 13.75"
The Indian Reed is a perennial flower native to the Caribbean and tropical Americas, shown here against a mountainous landscape. The lush green color of the leaves and surroundings emphasize the vibrant red color of the flower, which stands out against a clear blue sky. These vivid colors owe themselves to the intaglio method of printing, which combined mezzotint, aquatint, line, and stipple engraving, finished with watercolor. Seeking to evoke the exotic, Thornton has placed a small pagoda in the hills, an example of the creative liberties that he often took in presenting his flowers. This first state of the image appeared in Robert James Thornton's elephant folio edition of "The Temple of Flora." This collection of 32 large-scale floral prints, while considered a masterpiece today, was ridiculed in its time for its lavishness in comparison to typically more austere botanical imagery. Since then, however, it has become one of the most admired illustrated botanical set ever published in Britain. The print has surface stains along the right margin and some foxing and scuffs on the image. Dr. Robert John Thornton (1768-1837) was an English physician and botanical writer. A specialist in medical botany, Thornton dedicated the later part of his life to publishing collections of floral plates. "The Temple of Flora" was the final and most ambitious volume of "A New Illustration of the Sexual System of Carolus Von Linnæus," which Thornton commissioned and compiled between 1797 and 1807. This print is a lovely example of his work.