Two extraordinary botanical albums by Countess Mary Macclesfield (of Shirburne Castle, wife of the 3rd Earl) and her daughter Lady Elizabeth Parker (Later Lady Elizabeth Fane of Wormsley), containing 72 depictions of various specimens, one or two with butterflies and other insects. All are executed on vellum for the mostly part captioned with their scientific names. Each displaying the unmistakable influence of their drawing master Georg Ehret, and with the Macclesfield armorial blindstamp.

PARKER Mary; PARKER Elizabeth; EHRET Georg Dionysius (1767.)



2 volumes. 72 watercolours on vellum. Small 4to. Contemporary red morocco "wallet" albums, richly gilt. From the Shirburn Castle library but most probably executed at the Macclesfield London residence in St. James's Square. 1756 -

Georg Dionysius Ehret, the pre-eminent botanical draughtsman of the eighteenth century, settled in England in 1736. Already acknowledged in Europe as a master in his field, at first he found employment at the Physick Garden in Chelsea as the resident artist. His reputation spread driven by the excellence of both his various printed works and extraordinary gifts as a draughtsman. In 1751, such was his fame, he was appointed gardener at the Oxford botanical garden. Ehret's short time at the University was turbulent; a power struggle with his employer and sponsor Professor Humphrey Sibthorp developed. As a result, after resigning his position, he sought to exploit his burgeoning reputation as a teacher of botanical illustration to the nobility.


Flower painting had become an extremely fashionable occupation for the wives and daughters of the great houses, lead by the heiress, the Duchess of Portland, a fanatical botanist and an early patron of Ehret's, at Bulstrode House. As he writes in his autobiographical sketch in 1758 (see Linnean Society Journal): "In the year 1749 I began to give instruction to the highest nobility of England, and in my whole life I have not been so prosperous as during the last years. God be thanked!" Regarding his particular instruction he states "I recommend all those to whom I gave instruction to lay all the plants that they did within books. Now in these eight years some of my pupils have collections of 100 ... This all took place under my direction, and there had never been anything of the kind in England before."  


As these albums testify, two pupils of exceptional ability emerged from his personal tutelage. Mary Countess Macclesfield, wife of Thomas, the third Earl, and her daughter Lady Elizabeth Parker, (later Lady Elizabeth Fane of Wormsley). Both are listed in Ehret's ms. memoir, but edited out of the Linnean Society article. Only 5 of the images, one in the Mary Parker album 1756, which contains 47 images and the remainder in the "Elizabeth" volume of 25 images date variously 1765 (2) and 1766 & 1767.


The Mary Capel album sold in Sothebys in June 1976.

Stock Code: 228567

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