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Mark Catesby (1682-1749)

Catesby's trillium c.1722-6

37.1 x 26.7 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 925876

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  • A watercolour of bashful wakerobin (Trillium catesbaei Elliott). The drawing shows a whole plant with bulb and shallow roots, dark stems with dark green pointed leaves in clusters of three and a pink flower with long, thin, curling petals.

    Mark Catesby was born in Suffolk and was interested in natural history from an early age. In 1712, he travelled to the east coast of America with his sister Elizabeth, who had married a doctor who practised in Williamsburg, Virginia. Catesby spent seven years in Virginia collecting specimens and seeds for London buyers before returning to Britain. In London his drawings of birds and plants met with praise and a group of benefactors paid for his travel to Carolina in 1722. There, he made numerous drawings of the flora and fauna, working hard to ensure that his depictions were as helpful for an understanding of their subjects as possible. On his return to Britain, his drawings were reproduced in The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, which appeared in a series of volumes between 1729 and 1747. The first volume was dedicated to Queen Caroline, the second to Augusta, Princess of Wales. The original drawings from the volumes, which had been in the possession of Catesby’s widow until her death, were purchased by George III from the London bookseller Thomas Cadell in 1768.

    Catesby's trillium appears in Volume I, Plate 45 of The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. In the accompany text, Catesby explained 'This Plant I found at the sources of great rivers; not having seen any in the inhabited Parts of Carolina.' The plant is named in honour of Catesby's work.

    For identification of the species depicted see James L. Reveal, 'Identification of the plants and animals illustrated by Mark Catesby for his Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands' in Phytoneuron 2013 and revised online version.

    Thomas Cadell; from whom bought by George III, 1768

  • Measurements

    37.1 x 26.7 cm (sheet of paper)

  • Other number(s)
    Alternative title(s)

    Solanum triphyllon; flore hexapetalo, carneo