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Dr. Robert John Thornton Gallery



The Temple of Flora (folio)
When Dr. Robert Thornton inherited the family fortune in 1797, he left his medical practice to indulge his lifelong passion for botany. The finest botanical books had heretofore been published on the continent. Thornton, determined to surpass the Germans in scholarship and the French in printing artistry, planned a book of philosophic and literary distinction, illustrated by some of the best painters working in Britain. In homage to the great Swedish naturalist, it was titled The Temple of Flora, or Garden of Nature, Picturesque Botanical Plates of the new Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus. The first sections appeared in 1799; the edition was completed in 1807. The Table of Contents lists thirty-two plates of flowers, but Thornton made up each set with twenty-nine or thirty-two in varied arrangements. There are also five frontispieces, portraits and allegorical compositions.
For the huge plates, Thornton commissioned a few artists (Sydenham, Edwards and James Sowerby) who specialized in botanical work, as well as well-known painters such as Abraham 'Moonlight' Pether. The majority of designs were done by Peter Henderson and Philip Reinagle. The intaglio plates - a varied combination of mezzotint, aquatint, line and stipple engraving, finished with watercolor -were executed by Bartolozzi and other English masters. The lengthy text was primarily written by Thornton himself. Despite desperate attempts to raise money in order to complete the project, including the creation of a quarto version in 1812, as a lottery prize, the costly process of making these prints bankrupted Thornton when he was one-third of the way toward his goal of 90 images. The title notwithstanding, few of the plates are of scientific interest. it is the forceful stylization of flowers, together with their historical, allegorical and/or fanciful backgrounds (prescribed by Thornton) that place the Temple of Flora among the greatest botanical books of all time. Dr. Thornton, who gave his life and his fortune to this work, created one of England's monuments to Romantic idealism.
Publication City:   London
Edition:   Folio
Medium:   Aquatint, mezzotint and stipple engravings finished by hand
Dimensions:   Large folio with full margins
Date:   1799-1807
SELECTIONS FROM THIS WORK
A Group of Auriculas
A Group of Auriculas
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A Group of Carnations
A Group of Carnations
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American Aloe
American Aloe
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American Bog Plants
American Bog Plants
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American Cowslip
American Cowslip
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Esculapius, Flora, Ceres and Cupid Honouring the Bust of Linnaeus
Esculapius, Flora, Ceres and Cupid Honouring the Bust of Linnaeus
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Hyacinths
Hyacinths
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Indian Reed
Indian Reed
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Large Flowering Sensitive Plant
Large Flowering Sensitive Plant
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Pitcher Plant
Pitcher Plant
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Roses
Roses
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The Blue Egyptian Water Lily
The Blue Egyptian Water Lily
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The Blue Passion Flower
The Blue Passion Flower
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The China Limodoron
The China Limodoron
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The Night Blooming Cereus
The Night Blooming Cereus
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The Nodding Renealmial
The Nodding Renealmial
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The Oblique-leaved Begonia
The Oblique-leaved Begonia
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The Persian Cyclamen
The Persian Cyclamen
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The Quadrangular Passion Flower
The Quadrangular Passion Flower
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The Queen
The Queen
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The Queen Flower
The Queen Flower
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The Snowdrop
The Snowdrop
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The Superb Lily
The Superb Lily
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The White Lily
The White Lily
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The Winged Passion Flower
The Winged Passion Flower
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Tulips
Tulips
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