2017 meets 1720

Well what d'you know, 'dark tropicals', lovely colourful flowers and foliage on black or navy backgrounds, are a trend this year. The shops are full of them and I love them.

They've been giving me a strange sense of déja vu though, and I couldn't think why until I suddenly remembered Mary Delany.

Amaranthus, by Mary Delany

'Mary who?' you ask - and well you might as she's been dead for nearly 300 years! But she was the most extraordinary woman, and she's been in the papers again recently (Mum sent me a cutting about her).

Mary Delany was born in 1700 and had a pretty awful first husband, who died early and forgot to mention her in his will. She had to spend years and years living with friends without a bean of her own.

African marigold, by Mary Delany

In her early seventies however, she discovered the art of creating masterpieces out of coloured paper. This involved wielding her embroidery scissors with amazing skill to snip the most delicate, fragile, beautiful portraits of flowers – all mounted on black watercolour backgrounds. They were so exquisite, her fame spread to the point where King George III and Queen Charlotte ordered their gardeners to save any new specimens to present to Mrs Delany for portrayal.

She said she was going to make 1,000 'flower mosaicks' before she died, which was going some considering how old she was when she started. She almost managed it too… there are 984 of them in the British Museum!

If you care to, you can see all 984 for yourself at (I have to admit that I did do this!). There are an awful lot of rather dull little worts and scrubs, but also many pictures that are so vibrant and full of life you can practically smell them.

Homage Mary, you were a genius. I’m now wondering about making a range of stationery in Mary mode… bleeding hearts perhaps (or Lamprocapnos spectabilis, if I’m going to do the Mary thing properly).

I'd be right on trend for 2017, after all!

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