Botanic Plants Drawn by a Lady for Mrs. Bliss [manuscript title]
[Great Britain: circa 1800]. Folio. (18 1/4 x 11 1/2). Manuscript title in gold within floral and architectural wreath including pansies, roses, daffodils and a passion flower, 45 watercolours of flowers, most with contemporary pencil captions below the images, on wove paper watermarked 1797-1801.
Contemporary half red morocco and marbled paper covered boards, flat spine ruled and lettered in gilt
Provenance: Mrs. Bliss (title inscription); William Carlyon, Tregrehan, Cornwall (armorial bookplate); William H. Schab Gallery, Four Centuries of Fine Illustrated Books (1962), item 143.
Beautiful album of botanical watercolours, possibly by Mary Lawrance.
Mary Lawrance (later Mrs. Kearse) exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1795 to 1830. She belonged to a period when flower painting was considered one of the necessary social accomplishments for ladies and was able to charge half-a-guinea a lesson. She "is said to have been the possessor of much personal charm and exceedingly popular in London ... [she] obtained her botanical specimens for her drawings from various nursery gardens, including the famous Vineyard nursery at Hammersmith ... It was thought to be an honour for the owner as well as for the flower when Miss Lawrence painted its portrait" (Henrey II,pp.580-581).
The drawings here are of very high quality, lightly sketched in pencil, and accomplished with watercolour, bodycolour and finished with gun arabic. The possible attribution to Mary Lawrance is based principally on the presence of two images of the passion flower (including the one on the highly decorative manuscript title). Although undated, the watermarks confirm that these drawings were accomplished circa 1800, just at the time that Lawrance was working on her now-fantastically-rare A Collection of Passion Flowers (1799-1800).
Sold by William H. Schab Gallery in 1962, their catalogue description identifies Mrs. Bliss as Elizabeth Clement Breed (1778-1829) and suggests that the drawings were presented to her by Enos Bliss (1765-1852) on their marriage on 11 March 1801.