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Flower power A stunning achievement in botanical illustration The complete reprint of all color plates from Robert John Thornton's monumental work The Temple of Flora, first published in London in 1799. Presented as 33 loose-leaf Elephant folio-sized color prints as well as a booklet including an introduction and explanations of the botanical plates. The year 1799 witnessed the first installment of a work that has gone down in history as one of the most remarkable books of botanical plates ever published. Two centuries have passed since the publication of Robert John Thornton's The Temple of Flora, but its charm remains unsullied. Although trained as a medical doctor, Thornton (c. 1768–1837) passionately devoted himself to botany. Only a few decades earlier, Carl Linnaeus had established his revolutionary new system of classification, which today continues to form the backbone of such natural sciences as botany and zoology. Thornton greatly honored the ingenious Swedish scientist and wished his own prodigious undertaking to serve as an ultimate monument to the great botanist. Today, Thornton's large-format plates with their stunning floral portraits number among supreme achievements of botanical illustration. Thornton engaged the most renowned flower painters of his age and spared no cost in the creation of this unique work. His reckless enthusiasm, however, reduced his originally considerable fortune so drastically that, sanctioned by Parliament, Thornton had to organize a botanical lottery in order to bring his spectacular project to a provisional end. Surviving complete editions of the Temple number today among the great treasures of only a few libraries; meanwhile, the individual plates have become sought-after and extremely expensive collectors' items, whose particular allure lies in their unusual combination of monumental, at times exotic plants with highly romantic background landscapes. More than any other floral painting, the bewitchingly illuminated blossoms of the Night-Blooming Cereus, posed before darkening ruins, expresses the late 18th-century sentiment that in the following decades found its characteristic expression in European Romantic literature and painting.
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