CURTIS FAMILY BOTANICAL COLLECTION -- A collection of botanical drawings including one by Henry Curtis (1820-1889) and one by Sarah Maria Curtis (1802-1872), [c.1830s].
81 drawings, comprising 78 botanical studies (of varying sizes, from 52 x 38mm to 290 x 220mm) including 46 original drawings in watercolour, 2 in pencil, and 30 in watercolour over a printed base; and a pencil drawing of a shell, a hand-coloured printed study of a bird, 2 drawings of butterflies, one in watercolour, one over a printed base; 49 drawings are cut out, the remainder drawn on thick paper, or cut out and laid down on black paper or thick paper; the collection includes a watercolour drawing of an orchid, signed 'Maria Curtis', and inscribed '3412', and a pencil drawing signed 'Henry Curtis delt Aged 1 years' and inscribed in brown ink, '3411', 'Cactus Eyriesii Bot. Reg. t. 1707'. Also present is an octavo plate of butterflies, and leaves from Issue 9 of W.H. Edwards, The Butterflies of North America, 1871. (Some cut-outs creased or worn at edges). Provenance: The Curtis family, through George Graves, and thence by descent to the present owners.
A remarkable and intriguing collection of drawings, compiled by members of the renowned Curtis family. William Curtis (1746-1799), one of the leading botanical figures of his day, founded 'one of the oldest scientific periodicals of its kind', the Botanical Magazine, in 1787 (Desmond). His son-in-law and cousin, Samuel Curtis (1779-1860) took over the publication of the work from 1801-1846. Both his daughter Sarah Maria and son Henry contributed to the Magazine, and it appears that the watercolour by Maria Curtis in this collection, of the Large-flowered Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium Insigne), is a preparatory work for plate 3412, published in the Botanical Magazine in 1835. The text accompanying the image, which celebrates the beauty of this particular genus, ('the size of the blossom..the colour and markings of the floral coverings..)', reads 'the individual here figured blossomed during the winter months, in Mr Curtis's collection, at the Glazenwood Nursery, and the drawing was made by Miss Maria Curtis'. Similarly, it seems likely that Henry Curtis's drawing was preparatory for plate 3411, in the same edition. The text reads, 'the drawing of this charming Echinocactus, no less remarkable for the great size of the flower, than for its delicious fragrance, was made by Mr Henry Curtis, the youngest son of the Conductor of this work, in whose choice collection, at Glazenwood, it flowered in Jan, 1835.'
The remainder of the studies, the majority of which are of orchids, are by capable and competent amateur artists, most probably by various members of the Curtis family. They do not appear to be preparatory works, and the fact that so many have been cut out suggests that family members may have created them in keeping with the Victorian fashion for applying decorative cut-outs to screens.