[COLOR PLATE] LAWRANCE, MARY. Nelumbium [nucifera]--Water Lilly [sic].
[sic]. Water- and body-color on vellum, heightened with gum arabic over graphite outlines. 36 x 29 1/2 inches (91 x 75 cm), signed and titled by the artist (l.r.) in graphite in a graceful hand. A few losses of the densely applied color to the sky at upper left and some minor flaking at a few other points. Traces of early mounting to a stretcher, perhaps by the artist herself (there is an upper and lower fold with marks from tacking, these areas left unpainted); Together with LAWRANCE, MARY. Sketches of Flowers from Nature by Mary Lawrance, Teacher of Botanical Drawing... London: self-published, 1801. First edition. Contemporary calf gilt. 11 1/4 x 9 inches (29 x 22 cm); 2 ff. title and text, and 11 plates, one in three states (uncolored, with the first layer of wash coloring, and fully colored) the balance of the plates are, as issued, in two states, colored and uncolored. The plates are drawn, engraved, and presumably colored by Lawrance. Binding heavily rubbed and worn, separating at spine, some offsetting within (though most plates retain old tissues), with the small book label of C. Briscoe, the inscription dated July 26 1803 on the title, and neat notes in ink in the same hand (initialed) on the title verso. The front free endpaper also bears an ownership inscription Charles J. Kerr of Buffalo N.Y.
Mary Lawrance first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1795. Her monographs, especially A Collection of Roses from Nature 1796-9 (issued in thirty parts) brought her considerable fame as a botanical artist. It remains one of the most desirable English flora of the period.
DNB states "In 1804 she was living with her parents and sister in Queen Anne Street East, London, where she gave lessons in 'drawing Botany at ½ a guinea a lesson & a guinea entrance' ... Farington responded to her request, supported by Charles Greville, brother of the earl of Warwick, to place her works well in the Royal Academy exhibition that year ... Up to 1830 she continued, under her married name, to exhibit studies of flowers, which were finely executed. She was a friend of the horticulturist Robert Sweet, who named the Rosa lawranceana after her."
This lot comprises a magnificent example of a watercolor by Lawrance in a very large format (her original works are quite rare). The water lily in question, defined only as Nelumbium in her title (there are two species in the genus) is the Indian Lotus. It is a dramatic and very beautiful rendering of the national flower of India and of Vietnam. This is offered with a complete copy of Lawrance's instructional manual for flower painters, with its charming color plates. Sold by her from her house on Queen Ann Street East (near Portland Place, London), it is quite rare in any form; Dunthorne lists only six plates without text, and only two copies have appeared at auction in the last quarter-century. This copy has a contemporary provenance, whose notes comprise a rather careful critique of the work, praising the plates but damning the absence of an authoritative text. A watercolor by a C.A. Lawrance (dated 1796) of a fieldmouse is laid-in. Henrey II: 580; Nissen 1153; Dunthorne 178.
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