Caspian Nelumbium

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Artist Statement

 

This illustration of the Caspian lotus appeared in volume 30 of Edwards’s Botanical Register, published in 1844. The text accompanying the image thanked the “Messrs Rollissons of Tooting”, as the drawing was made from observing a live specimen in their nursery in August of 1843. At the time, it must have been difficult to secure a specimen of the Caspian lotus: the fragile water lotus would have had to be transported incredibly carefully across quite a distance from its native Caspian Sea.

Edwards’s Botanical Register was initially dubbed The Botanical Register when it was begun in 1815 with Sydenham Edwards at the helm. After Edwards died in 1819, the illustrated horticultural magazine passed into the hands of its publisher, James Ridgway. It exchanged hands again in 1829 to John Lindley, who renamed the magazine Edwards’s Botanical Register. Lindley published another nineteen volumes of his writing and Sarah Ann Drake’s illustrations before retiring the magazine in 1847. 

 

Sarah Ann Drake | See All Editions

 

What little we know of Sarah Ann Drake is due to her working relationship with English botanist John Lindley. Lindley wrote a number of important botanical works in the nineteenth century, and often painted his own illustrations. However, as other responsibilities began to claim more of his time, Lindley went looking for a replacement illustrator. He found one in his daughter’s childhood friend, Sarah Ann Drake.

Drake was born on July 24, 1803, in Skeyton, a small village outside of Norfolk, England. As a young woman, she studied in Paris, where she practiced activities considered ladylike, including painting and drawing. She moved back to England in 1830 and lived with the Lindley family, where she held several roles, including that of governess. Ultimately, she became trained as a botanical artist. When she began working with Lindley, she based her drawings on living plants and sketches that were sent to Lindley from places like Brazil, Australia, and China. Her first illustrations appeared in Plantae Asiaticae Rariores. She was later published in Edwards’s Botanical Register, Ladies Botany, and Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala.

Drake gained wide recognition for the extraordinary quality of her work. In addition to its exceptional quality, there was an exceptional quantity: Drake created well over 1500 illustrations in her lifetime. She was so crucial to Lindley’s botanic study that he named the genus Drakea after her. Sarah Ann Drake returned home to Norfolk in 1847 after the Edwards's Botanical Register ceased publication. She died ten years later in 1857.

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For our Vintage Editions series, our curators scour historical archives for both timeless classics and heretofore unseen gems. These images come back to life as exhibition-quality prints now available to everyone. As a bonus, purchasing equals patronage: sales from Vintage Edition prints go towards supporting our growing roster of artists.