William Sharp, one of the first chromolithographic printers in the U.S., created these extraordinary illustrations for the large folio Victoria Regia (1854) by John Fisk Allen. Allen, a well-known horticulturalist, cultivated a specimen of the rare, huge (up to 8 feet in diameter), fast-growing (up to an inch an hour!) water lily, native to the Amazon. After months of careful tending, the plant—named in honor of the recently-crowned Queen Victoria—blossomed on the evening of July 21, 1853. Sharp’s depictions of this exotic wonder—in various stages of bloom—were masterpieces and elevated the then-nascent art of chromolithography to spectacular new heights.
image captions: All images are from a copy of Victoria Regia in our collections. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
This is no ordinary hedgehog. The bestiary (book of beasts) this little guy inhabits describes the imaginative way this hedgehog gathers fruits. He spears grapes with his spikes and rolls through the vine, collecting more and more as he goes. Moral of the story? Care for your spiritual truths, or the devil may carry them off.
A Hedgehog (detail), Franco-Flemish, about 1270. Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment. The J. Paul Getty Museum