An original 1818 watercolour painting, Charlotte Metcalfe Lesser Butterfly Orchid.
An exquisitely painted example of early British botanical illustration. By a talented hand, Charlotte Metcalfe, and dating from 1818, this watercolour resembles the finely detailed illustrations to be found in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine which began in 1787.
In watercolour on laid paper.
Unsigned. Charlotte Metcalfe accompanied her illustrations with an identifying key (see photo) in which this is identified as 'No.56, Orchid'. Please note that the key is pictured for information only and does not come with the painting.
In good condition for its age. The picture may have minor imperfections, such as slight marks, toning, foxing, creasing or pinholes, commensurate with age. Please see photos for detail.
22.2cm x 17.1cm.
This painting forms part of a beautiful collection of botanical illustrations that we have for sale, all by the hand of Charlotte Metcalfe, 1818. She was evidently a lady of some means who embarked an endeavour to catalogue in visual form the common wildflowers around her. She illustrates flowers found commonly in British hedgerows, woodlands, marshes and ditches - such as nettle, wort, mallow and sage - and on occasions cross-references her species with ‘Mr Curtis’s Botany’. The collection also evidences an interest in plants’ medicinal uses such as those described in Robert Hooper’s ‘Lexicon Medicum’.
Metcalfe’s illustrative style is typical of early British botanical artists at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries - the ‘specimens’ painted with great attention to scientific accuracy, with extremely fine outlines and subtle variation of colour, which would translate well into engraved colour plates. The numbering style she has used (e.g. ‘N.1’) matches that in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, one of the greatest scientific periodicals of all time. Founded in 1787 by one of Britain’s most famous early botanists, William Curtis, and still published to this day, it is the oldest periodical in existence featuring coloured plates and has included the work of many acclaimed botanical artists. Metcalfe’s illustrations are an early contemporaneous example of the popularity and influence of Curtis’s work.
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Product code: JN-196