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Dr. Robert John Thornton (c.1765-1832)


Temple of Flora

London: Dr. Thornton, 1799-1807

Hand-colored engraving

Dr. Robert Thornton was determined that his country produce the greatest series of botanicalillustrations of all time, and hisTemple of Florais unsurpassed as a botanical document of theRomantic era. Thornton assembled the finest flower painters to paint the original designs thatserved as the basis for the engravings, and no expense was spared in their production. They are thefirst botanicals to include landscape backgrounds laden with symbolic, sentimental, and dramaticelements. It is the forceful stylization of flowers, as well as their historical, allegorical and/orfanciful backgrounds, that place theTemple of Floraamong the greatest botanical books of all time.The work was first issued in parts between 1799 and l807. Thornton intended the work as apictorial celebration, accompanied by prose and verse text, of the classification system of Linnaeus.He employed the artists Peter Henderson, Philipp Reinagle, and others to paint the plants, each inan exotic and romantic setting. Thornton exhausted his fortune on the book’s production, but inthe process he created one of the most beautiful and distinctive works of botanical art of themodern era.