Indian Botanical Illustrations
Research by Dr Henry J. Noltie has uncovered the scientific and social history of RBGE’s vast collection of botanical drawings that were made for Scottish East India Company surgeons by Indian artists
The Roxburgh Collection
William Roxburgh (1751-1815), known as the ‘Father of Indian Botany’, was one of John Hope’s most significant pupils. In India he commissioned about 2500 drawings of Indian plants from a team of Indian artists. These are known as the ‘Roxburgh Icones’. At RBGE is a set of about 500 extremely fine, partially coloured, ink copies based on the original Roxburgh Icones, made in the Calcutta Botanic Garden 1815-20 for Dr James Hare. There is also a set of about 100 facsimile copies of the Icones made by Roxburgh’s own artists.
The Cleghorn Collection
Together with the Hope and Snelling collections, by far the most important element of the Illustrations Collection at RBGE is the group of several thousand botanical drawings commissioned in India, from Indian artists, by Hugh Cleghorn (1820-1895). The drawings include a collection made in Mysore in the 1840s, a group made in and around Madras in the 1850s, many of which are by Wight’s artist Govindoo, and a large collection of drawings copied from book illustrations.
The Wight Collection
The East India Company surgeon Robert Wight (1796-1872) was the most important plant taxonomist working in South India in the mid-19th century. As part of this work he commissioned two Indian artists, Rungiah and Govindoo, to make several thousand botanical drawings. About 700 of these are included in the Illustrations Collection, which probably came to RBGE with the Cleghorn Collection.
The Dapuri Collection
170 drawings of plants, including the illustration of Portulaca shown here, made in the Bombay Presidency garden at Dapuri near Poona. These were commissioned in the late 1840's from an anonymous Portuguese-Indian artist by the garden’s superintendent Alexander Gibson (1800-1867).
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