Sunday, 30 September 2012

Mary Delany's Cut-out Flowers

"I have invented an new way of imitating flowers."

I recently picked up a biography about a remarkable 18th century gentlewoman called Mary Delany who, in 1772, at the late, great age of 72 began to produce the most amazing paper 'mosaicks' of flowers. Noticing the resemblance between the colour of a sheet of pink paper and a geranium petal, Mrs. Delany took up her scissors and began to cut. Upon seeing them, her friend the Duchess of Portland mistook the petals for the real thing, and so began a passion that, by the time failing eyesight forced her to stop in 1782, produced almost 1000 artworks of the most breath-taking and painstaking detail. Colouring and cutting sheets of paper into hundreds of different pieces, she would then glue them to black-painted card to form flowers. Her skill was such that the great eighteenth-century botanist Sir Joseph Banks declared that these collages were ‘the only imitations of nature that he had ever seen from which he could venture to describe botanically any plant without the least fear of committing an error'.

I've made the pictures as big as possible so you can better see the details. Unfortunately, with the passing of time, the glue has also started to show a bit although they are beautiful nonetheless.

All images from the British Museum online archives here, biographic information about Mary Delany here