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Monday, April 18, 2011

France vs England

Yesterday the New York Times took out a FULL page ad in their own Newspaper devoting more than half the space to the genius of Robert Thornton.

Thank you New York Times for celebrating and promoting my passions of the last 40 years.  Even though what you are trying to sell (for $1895!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) is a pathetic, sad ghost of the original, your recognition of Thornton's splendid templates is heartening.   With your towering promotions you have created a vast new group of collectors some of whom figure out that buying the originals from me is sublime. 

Robert Thornton published the finest English book on flowers from 1799 to 1807.   Using engraving, aquatint, hand coloring the quality of the 31 engravings reaches the highest levels.  The images of the Tulips, Roses, Carnations, Ariculas, Egyptian Bean, Night Blewing Cereus have all certainly reached iconic status.  We all have seen them in Marriott Hotel Rooms and at humid, southern country clubs and in the backgrounds of countless episodes of American and English sitcoms for the last 40 years.   And, of course, they hang in the English Embassy in Washington, the American Embassy in London and in a home formerly belonging to Sylvester Stallone!!!  Most importantly the great ladies of American Society have papered their walls with these folio sheets for the last 100 years.   Having a few faded Thornton aquatints in your "breakfast" room in Hobe Sound, Lake Forest, Southampton, Radnor, Buckhead or Orinda somehow makes the visage of the shedding beast sitting across from you slightly less annoying. 

Thornton's clearly stated purpose was to celebrate the genius of Carlos Linnaeus whose publication of the System of Nature in 1735 gave the European and American community the grounding to enthusiastically and passionately classify all life on Earth.   Finally the code for life was cracked and placing in color plate books every plant, bird, tree and mammal in its right slot because the passion of European Aristocracy for 180 years.

This book along with the works of Redoute form a splendid contrast to the English and French sensibilities of the early 19th century.

On the last year of publication - 1807 - A German was on the Throne of England and a Corsican was just being crowned Emperor of France with his buxom mistress from Martinique as Empress.   The world was topsy turvey in frantic confusion right at the end of what we call the Age of Enlightenment.  14 years earlier the French had beheaded their King for acting like a Bourbon.

WHAT TO DO!!!  

Simple.

Turn to the classics.   Look back to ancient Greece, Egypt, India, Rome and Israel and start again with the basic rules laid down by the great philosophers. 

And this is what Thornton did inserting classical architectural ornaments in the botanical images he presented to us celebrating the direct descendant of these great teachers - Carlos Linnaeus.

Our stock of these ORIGINAL works is the finest in the world.  Come to NYC and see numerous complete sets of the originals in all of their different states and editions.

The most fun is seeing the contrast of these great English masterpieces to the subtle genius of Redoute then working for the Empress Josephine.   No philosophical points for Redoute to make.  Just the greatest botanical artist of all time.  Simple, clean, brilliant, deep.

To compare these two works side by side is what collecting in this field is all about. 

Who is better?  Your answer will tell you a lot about yourself.

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