Description & Technical information

This rich and diverse collection of 48 botanical illustrations represents the astounding floral diversity of China and further afield. The paintings were procured at the request of John Roberts (1739-1810), a director and chairman of the East India Company, by Britain’s first plant hunter to reside in China, William Kerr (1779-1814). Correspondence between the East India Company in London and Canton reveals the historical context of the works, and that Kerr employed local artists. The paintings in this collection had been bound into two albums in London, prior to 1810. Following Roberts’ death in 1810, they were sold at auction by his executors. At some point following this sale, the albums were cut up and the paintings dispersed. 
The present group comprises 8 individual plant studies, ranging from a magnificent illustration of a grape vine to a resplendent magnolia. Each work represents a seamless fusion of the scientific with the artistic.

1) A Study of a Magnolia,Yulania liliiflora
Watercolour on rice paper
44cm high, 34cm wide

2) A Study of a Cotton Tree, Bombax ceiba 
Watercolour on rice paper
42.5 cm high, 33cm wide

3) A Study of a Cotton Rose Hibiscus, Hibiscus mutabilis
Watercolour on European paper
43.7cm high, 34.2cm wide

4) A Study of a Greater Swamp Orchid, Phaius tankervilleae
Watercolour on rice paper
44cm high, 34cm wide

5) A Study of a Crepe Ginger, Hellenia speciosa
Watercolour on rice paper
39cm high, 33.9cm wide

6) A Study of an Indian Shot, Canna indica
Watercolour on European paper
43.2cm high, 34.2cm wide

7) A Study Resembling a Prunus, Prunus sp. 
Watercolour on I. Taylor paper
40cm high, 54 cm wide

8) A Study of a Grape Vine, Vitis vinifera
Watercolour on European (I. Taylor) paper
41cm high, 55cm wide

For further information, please click here for our online catalogue.

1 Middleton, Bernard C. A History of English Craft Bookbinding Technique. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 1996. p. 330.