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Sex and Science in Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora

- March 11, 2015 in Art & Illustrations, Books, botanical illustrations, botany, Carl Linnaeus, Erasmus Darwin, Featured Articles, flora, flowers, Painting, poetry, robert thornton, Science & Medicine, sex, temple of flora

Bridal beds, blushing captives, and swollen trunks - Carl Linnaeus' taxonomy of plants heralded a whole new era in 18th-century Europe of plants being spoken of in sexualised terms. Martin Kemp explores how this association between the floral and erotic reached its visual zenith in Robert Thornton's exquisitely illustrated Temple of Flora.

Plates from Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora (1807)

- November 8, 2012 in collections, flora, flowers, Images, Images-19th, Images-Engraving-Line, Images-Landscapes, Images-Painting, Images-Science, robert thornton, temple of flora

“The Temple of Flora” is the third and final part of Robert John Thornton’s New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus, considered by many to be the greatest of all flower books. It consists of a series of sumptuous depictions of flowers notable for their epic and unusual settings. Interwoven amongst the images are various descriptions, histories and poetic odes regarding the flowers featured. The first plates were engraved by Thomas Medland in May 1798 from paintings by Philip Reinagle. Between 1798 and 1807 they produced a total of thirty-three coloured plates, engraved in aquatint, stipple and line. Others engravers included Joseph Constantine Stadler working from the painting of Peter Charles Henderson. When he planned the project, Thornton had decided to publish seventy folio-size plates. Lack of interest from the general public spelled disaster for the scheme, and the holding of a lottery could not save it from financial ruin, neither did a page in the work dedicated to the spouse of George III, Queen Charlotte, patroness of botany and the fine arts. (Wikipedia) (All images taken from New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus (1807) housed at the Internet Archive, donated by Missouri [...]