Bury Pl. 45, March Lily
Original Antique Print
25" x 18 1/2" (approximate)
A Selection of Hexandrian Plants
Priscilla Susan Bury’s remarkable contribution, A Selection of Hexandrian Plants, Belonging to the Natural Orders Amaryllidae and Liliacae, depicts flowers with six stamens. Of elephant-size, it is the largest scale, most unusual and rarest of all 19th-century botanicals. Comprised of 51 aquatint engravings produced in ten parts from 1831 to 1834 by renowned London engraver, Robert Havell, Jr., these rich aquatint engravings are partly printed in color and partly hand-colored. Also the publisher of this work, Robert Havell produced Bury’s folio at the same time that he was engraving John James Audubon’s plates. John James Audubon was listed among the subscribers to this splendid 19th-century botanical folio. Only 80 subscriptions were sold.
Wilfred Blunt, author of The Art of Botanical Illustration, writes, “Mrs. Edward Bury…was the artist of the impressive Selection of Hexandrian Plants (1831—34), certainly one of the most effective color-plate folios of its period…. The “Hexandrian” flowers — lilies, crinums, pancratiums and hippeastriums — are executed in fine-grained aquatint, partly printed in colour, and retouched by hand.”
In his work, Flower and Fruit Prints of the 18th and early nineteenth centuries, 1970, Gordon Dunthorne refers to Bury prints from this folio as “Finely coloured plates of perfect technique, very decorative and “modern” in feeling, of amaryllis, crinum, pancratium and lilies. Some plates show the bulb and stalk, leaves and blossom.”
Mrs. Edward Bury (c. 1799—1870), née Priscilla Susan Falkner, was the daughter of a well-placed family. Exotic plants were grown in the hot houses at her family’s estate, Fairfield, near Liverpool, where, as a young girl, she began painting flowers. The Victorian tradition viewed women illustrating flowers as “genteel, diverting and instructive study [so] that the fair sex could find amusement….” The talented Bury’s “Hexandrian” watercolor flower “portraits”, as she called them, were of lilies, crinums, pancratiums, and hippeastrums.
Priscilla Susan Bury was encouraged in her botanical painting pursuits by a local botanist, William Rowe, and her distinguished friends, the zoologist William Swainson and William Roscoe. She also received technical expertise from the staff at the Liverpool Botanical Gardens. Unlike her contemporaries, Pierre-Joseph Redouté or Pierre-Antoine Poiteau, Priscilla Susan Bury was not trained as a botanist or artist, yet she occupies a singular position in botanical art.
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