Mary Delany

Mary Delany (1700-1788), Passiflora laurifolia, 1777, paper collage

At the age of 72, after the death of her husband, Mary Delany, began making intricate botanical paper collage as an "employment and amusement... being depreived of that friend, whose partial approbation was my pride." Her almost one thousand botanical paper mosaics are now housed in the British Museum. The painstaking details of the works, which required an extraordinary dexterity, led the famed 18th-century botanist Joseph Banks to declare 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." For the Passiflora laurifolia, Mrs. Delany used more than 100 small strips of paper to make up the flower. Her work is the subject of a current exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art.

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