Mary Delany, Physalis, Winter Cherry, a paper collage

England, AD 1772-88

One of nearly 1000 'cut flowers' in The British Museum

In the autumn of 1772 Mary Delany (1700-88) wrote to her niece Mary Port: 'I have invented a new way of imitating flowers'. With her eye for botanical detail she would cut minute pieces of coloured paper and stick them on a black background to represent each part of a specimen. Occasionally she touched up the pictures with watercolour. Here she has incorporated the real skeleton of a pod case to stick over the paper seeds. The glue that she used was possibly egg-white, or flour and water.

The Winter Cherry, or Chinese Lantern as it is commonly known, is indigenous to southern Europe and eastern Asia. It was introduced to this country during the mid-sixteenth century. Many friends sent Mrs Delany flowers from their gardens for her to copy and she recorded their botanical and common names, the place they were found and the date on each of her 'paper mosaicks'. Most of her collages were made at Bulstrode, the home of her dearest friend, Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, with whom she spent seventeen summers after Dr Delany's death in 1768. She created nearly a thousand collages before failing eyesight caused her to stop in 1782. They filled ten albums, which came to the British Museum in 1897.

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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: 291.000 mm
Width: 177.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1897-5-5-672


Bequeathed by Lady Llanover


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