Thursday, July 28, 2011

Unexpected Lessons

On my way home from a meeting the other day, I stopped at a local antique store that's about a mile from our house. It's filled with booths and each is unique in what they offer so there is always something interesting waiting. One booth had a display of antique botanical prints. I thought they were lovely. Brought one home with me and it's now available in our etsy store, Bates Mercantile Co. 

When I got home I started to research this book plate print.

Here's the learning part: I was able to attribute this illustration to one of the most famous and acclaimed botanical artists, Pierre-Antoine Poiteau (1766-1854). Poiteau it seems (according to wikipedia), began his career as a gardener and worked in kitchen gardens and for the Parisian market gardeners for sometime before being appointed garçon jardinier in 1790 at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle of Paris.  There he studied botany and art, and was sent to Santo Domingo to further his work in botany but was arrested as soon as he stepped foot on the island because he didn't have the proper papers. Talk about drama? 

He then went to Haiti and became the head of a new botanical garden there, but alas, he was basically working for nothing. Yet, it was where he met Pierre Jean François Turpin (also a botanist and considered one of the premier botanical illustrators of his time), who he would later collaborate with and publish  Flora Parisiensis secundum systema sexuale deposita et plantarum circa Lutetiam sponte nascentium descriptiones, icones....Did you get all that?

I found out even more than wikipedia had to offer. I scoured the Internet. Here's one thing that set him apart.........Poiteau worked with French printer Langlois, and because of Langlois' printing process, Poiteau was was able to express the most wonderfully realistic pictures of fruit, like the Belle Bauce that I found. Poiteau was, not only regarded as an artist, but contributed to the science of botany through the mere accuracy of his works. He was a member of many scientific societies, and even eventually directed the museum of natural history. Poiteau was credited with even discovering numerous species of plants and animals, and even created some families (cyclanthae, for example). They were such renaissance men back then.

To think I wouldn't have known any of this had I not made a quick stop on my way home from the meeting.  I LOVE the history of antiques. There is always something to learn. 
It's Wednesday......go learn something new!

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