31 May Lily from The Temple of Flora
It’s time for our regular botanical art post! Here’s another beautiful picture for all you plant-lovers. It’s a lily from The Temple of Flora, the illustrated volume from Robert John Thornton’s amazing 19th century botany book. This particular engraving is called The Superb Lily. However, the picture is not of the African Flame Lily, which is sometimes known as the Superb Lily. We’re sure you can see this is a true lily, rather than a vine like the Flame Lily. This lily’s latin name lilium superbum literally means ‘superb lily’, but that isn’t its English name! We usually call it the Turk’s cap lily.
Obviously we admire lilies for their flowers as well as their scent. We can’t smell the plant in the picture, but we can certainly admire the way it looks. The artist shows its beauty in every detail. You can see the way the petals curl, and all the subtleties of the beautiful shading and the patterns on them. We love the spotted patterns, the lovely red and gold, and the intricate drawing of every stamen, petal and leaf. If you want to compare this to a photo of the same plant, google ‘lilium superbum’ images, or look at the Wikipedia Lilium Superbum page.
More about Thornton’s book
As you will know if you’ve read our earlier posts this year, Thornton didn’t draw the pictures for his book. Many people consider Thornton’s 1807 book New Illustration of the Sexual System of Carolus von Linnaeus to be the greatest of all flower books. Thornton wrote the serious essays and commentary on Swedish scientist Linnaeus’s work that take up the first two volumes. The Temple of Flora is the third volume that completes the set. Thornton wanted it to be filled with stunning illustrations to complement the text, and used the best engravers and botanical artists of the time.