27 February, 2017

The paper garden: Mrs Delaney {begins her life's work} at 72 by Molly Peacock

Intrigued by the botanical painting of an opium poppy on a black background, I opened this book and entered the extraordinary life of Mary Delaney, only to be astounded to discover that the poppy is in fact an intricate collage made from coloured paper.

In 1772, this remarkable woman at the age of 72 embarked upon a project of creating 1,000 flowers in this manner. When in 1783 poor eyesight forced her to stop, she was only 15 creations short of her target. Her ten-volume Flora Delanica is now held at the British Museum.

Mary’s aristocratic background meant she had the good fortune to mix with stimulating company. Her friend the Duchess of Portland owned one of the best natural history collections in the country and Jonathan Swift,  Sir Joseph Banks and the King and Queen of England were among her acquaintances. She received specimens from the Botanic Gardens at Kew and had also seen many specimens that came back from Australia on Cook’s Endeavour.

Amazingly, I had never heard of her or seen any of her creations before stumbling upon this biography.

Title:   The paper garden: Mrs Delaney {begins her life's work} at 72
Author: Molly Peacock

Claire S enjoys reading biographies.

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