Crafty Manolo » Mrs. Delany’s Flowers

Mrs. Delany’s Flowers

By Twistie

Some people find an artistic voice at an early age. Others… do it a little later in life. Mrs. Delany, pictured above, is one of the latter.

That’s not to say that she didn’t have crafty leanings earlier in life. In point of fact, she painted, made silhouettes, embroidered, and even wrote and illustrated a novel entitled Marianne. She was a keen student of botany and zoology. She spoke French, played music, and met Handel. She married a man of sixty at the age of just seventeen, and  found herself widowed just six years later. Unfortunately, he had failed to update his will after his marriage, and the young Mary Grenville Pendarves was left with almost nothing to her name.

Forced to rely on the kindness of relatives, she lived with an aunt and uncle, then later moved in with a friend in Ireland. After nearly twenty years of poverty-stricken widowhood, she met and married an Irish clergyman named Dr. Patrick Delany.

The pair had a passion for gardening and botany. They spent a great deal of time in their garden. Dr. Delany encouraged his wife’s interests, and by all accounts they were quite happy together until he shuffled off this mortal coil in 1768 at the age of eighty-four.

After her second husband’s death, Mary Delany never married again. Instead, she continued her gardening, embroidery, and intellectual pursuits. She met and befriended a pair of botanists named Joseph Brooks and Daniel Solander. And she invented the craft that made her name in the history books.

In 1771, she began to create amazingly detailed botanical paper collages which she called ‘paper mosaicks.’ The one above is of an asphodel lily.

To make these masterpieces, Mrs. Delany carefully dyed and cut literally thousands of pieces of paper, painstakingly glueing them into place to create images that are exquisitely detailed, and that give a sense of dimension I’ve never seen recreated in paper by anyone else.

She continued working on her collages for the next eighteen years, until her eyesight failed her. She had created roughly a thousand of her botanical collages.

To learn more about Mrs. Delany, her paper mosaicks, and her legacy, head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy of this book:

The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 by Molly Peacock is a lavishly illustrated love letter to Mrs. Delany and her artistry. Peacock clearly admires her subject, and goes into great detail about how the flower collages were created. Make sure you’ve got plenty of light to inspect the details in the brilliant photography.

A history lesson, a crafty inspiration, a botanical delight, and a bit of poetry all for just $19.80 (list price $30.00)? Count me in!

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