At the age of seventy-two, Mary Delany, née Mary Granville (1700-1788), embarked upon a series of nearly a thousand botanical collages, or “paper mosaics,” which would prove to be the crowning achievement of her rich creative life. These delicate hand-cut floral designs, made by a method of Mrs. Delany’s own invention, vie with the finest botanical works of her time. More than two centuries later her extraordinary work continues to inspire.
Although best known for these collages, Mrs. Delany was also an amateur artist, woman of fashion, and commentator on life and society in 18th-century England and Ireland. Her prolific craft activities not only served to cement personal bonds of friendship, but also allowed her to negotiate the interconnecting artistic, aristocratic, and scientific networks that surrounded her. This ambitious and groundbreaking book, the first to survey the full range of Mrs. Delany’s creative endeavors, reveals the complexity of her engagement with natural science, fashion, and design.
Mark Laird is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Alicia Weisberg-Roberts is Assistant Curator of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.