Mary Delany, Passiflora laurifolia: bay leaved, a paper collage

England, AD 1777

Collage with over 230 paper petals in the bloom

After the death of her second husband in 1768, Mary Delany lost her enthusiasm for the fashionable pastimes of shell decoration, silhouette portraits and needlework. At the age of 72 she began to imitate flowers in paper collage as an ‘employment and amusement... being deprived of that friend, whose partial approbation was my pride'. Her skill was such that the great eighteenth-century botanist Sir Joseph Banks declared that these collages were ‘the only imitations of nature that he had ever seen from which he could venture to describe botanically any plant without the least fear of committing an error'.

The common names of Passiflora laurifolia today are vinegar pear, water lemon and Jamaican honeysuckle. It originated in the West Indies and was brought to this country in the late seventeenth century. This specimen was given to Delany by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713-92), former Prime Minister and a keen horticulturalist, who grew exotic species in his home at Luton Park. She also received flowers from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, which Sir Joseph Banks supervised. George III and Queen Charlotte were regular visitors to the house they provided for her in 1785 near the Queen's Lodge at Windsor.

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More information


K. Sloan, A noble art: amateur artists a (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

R. Hayden, Mrs Delany and her flower coll (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

C.E. Vulliamy, Aspasia: the life and letters (London, G. Bles, 1935)


Height: 350.000 mm
Width: 243.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1897-5-5-654


Bequeathed by Lady Llanover


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