collections

Plates from Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora (1807)

“The Temple of Flora” is the third and final part of Robert John Thornton’s New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus, considered by many to be the greatest of all flower books. It consists of a series of sumptuous depictions of flowers notable for their epic and unusual settings. Interwoven amongst the images are various descriptions, histories and poetic odes regarding the flowers featured. The first plates were engraved by Thomas Medland in May 1798 from paintings by Philip Reinagle. Between 1798 and 1807 they produced a total of thirty-three coloured plates, engraved in aquatint, stipple and line. Others engravers included Joseph Constantine Stadler working from the painting of Peter Charles Henderson. When he planned the project, Thornton had decided to publish seventy folio-size plates. Lack of interest from the general public spelled disaster for the scheme, and the holding of a lottery could not save it from financial ruin, neither did a page in the work dedicated to the spouse of George III, Queen Charlotte, patroness of botany and the fine arts. (Wikipedia)

Highly recommended is Taschen’s beautiful facsimile edition of the work from 2013, available here.

Also check out Martin Kemp’s excellent essay for us “Sex and Science in Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora” in which he explores how the association between the floral and erotic reached its visual zenith in Robert Thornton’s exquisitely illustrated book.

Housed at: Internet Archive | From: Missouri Botanical Garden via Botanicus
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: Pending Clarification
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions

Learn more in Martin Kemp’s excellent essay for us “Sex and Science in Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora” in which he explores how the association between the floral and erotic reached its visual zenith in Robert Thornton’s exquisitely illustrated book.


  • Julie Gross

    love love love Robert Thornton!!…