THORNTON, Robert John (circa 1768-1837) - Peter HENDERSON
The Quadrangular Passion Flower
London: June 1st., 1802. Hand-coloured and colour-printed aquatint and stipple engraving by Hopwood. Sheet size: 22 1/2 x 17 3/4 inches.
One of the most strikingly beautiful flower plates ever to be printed in England.
"The Quadrangular Passion Flower [Passiflora quadrangularis L.] is so widely cultivated in South America that its precise country of origin cannot now be determined. It is indeed handsome and its colours so vivid that, far from the picture being sombre like that of the Blue Passion Flower, and although composed like that picture with the plant climbing up a pillar, it is much brighter...[with]...spectacular flowers...The Quadrangular Passion Flower has, however, virtues beyond the striking appearance of its flowers. Its fruit...is the well-known Granadilla, universally consumed as a delicacy in the warm countries where the plant will grow freely." (Ronald King, The Temple of Flora by Robert Thornton,. 1981, p. 84) Thornton's The Temple of Flora is the greatest English colour-plate flower book. "...[Thornton] inherited a competent fortune and trained as a doctor. He appears to have had considerable success in practice and was appointed both physician to the Marylebone Dispensary and lecturer in medical botany at Guy's and St. Thomas's hospitals. But quite early in his career he embarked on his...great work. What Redouté produced under the patronage of L'Héritier, Marie Antoinette, the Empress Josephine, Charles X, and the Duchesse de Berry, Thornton set out to do alone... Numerous important artists were engaged...twenty-eight paintings of flowers commissioned from Abraham Pether, known as `Moonlight Pether,' Philip Reinagle, ...Sydenham Edwards, and Peter Henderson...The result...involved Thornton in desperate financial straits...In an attempt to extricate himself he organized the Royal Botanic Lottery, under the patronage of the Prince Regent...It is easy to raise one's eyebrows at Thornton's unworldly and injudicious approach to publishing...But he produced...one of the loveliest books in the world." (Alan Thomas, Great Books and Book Collecting, pp.142-144) Second state of three.