New Addition to Special Collections is Ripe for Picking
The latest acquisition to the Louise B. Belsterling Botanical Collection housed in the Special Collections and Archives Division of Eugene McDermott Library is Studies of Fruit and Flowers, Painted from Nature bound with The Elements of Flower and Fruit Painting.
The McDermott Library’s copy is an 1814 English edition of Madame Henriette Antoinette Vincent’s master work Études de fleurs et de fruits: peints d’après nature, described by Gordon Dunthrone as “among the most exquisite of all flower prints in their beauty and delicacy of execution.” The work itself is instructional with guidelines on outlining and coloring fruit and flowers with accompanying plates to show the process and final illustration. Markedly absent in these plates are depictions of roots or seeds, following the etiquette of the time for women artists.
The Library’s copy has a cherub frontispiece not noted in conventional bibliographies of the work. Another significant feature of the English edition is that the plates are reversed from the French publication, as they were re-engraved by lithographer Thomas Lord Busby (1782-1838) using the illustrations from the original as a guide. Unlike most works during the period, Studies of Fruit and Flowers, Painted from Nature identifies the printer, B. M’Queen, and is an exceptional example of English color printing in the early nineteenth century.
Madame Vincent (1786-1830) studied under prominent botanical artists Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840) and Gerard van Spaendonck (1746-1822). Her artistic success was not limited to publication; she exhibited her art in the Paris Salon multiple times between 1814 and 1824. While she was an impressively skilled artist, her opportunities were undeniably fostered by two former Redouté students and trendsetting women: Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) and Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais (1763-1814). With their interests in botany, horticulture and art, these women were able to shift society’s standards for girls and women pursuing art and natural history as more than a hobby and paved the way for Madame Vincent and others.