These exquisite botanical watercolors, from a collection of thirteen, by the British artist Daniel Carthidge were the original studies for a volume of engravings intended to illustrate the exotic crops including fruits, teas and spices cultivated in areas throughout the West Indies and American Colonies under British possession.
This suite of watercolors, executed in 1784, depict trees and plants that the English used on a daily basis, most notably tea, coffee, cinnamon, pepper, and lemons. Yet while such things were imported and readily available in England, few citizens really had any notion of the actual appearance of such plants. Other watercolors represent species that were more obscure to the British, including papayas and pineapples, which generally could not last for the long trip to England from the colonies. Many of the imported spices were not only praised for flavor, but for medicinal attributes, such as cinnamon used as a stimulant and astringent, as well as a food preserver, and ginger for its digestive attributes and aiding in warding off colds.
Even after England lost its most important colony, America, the British Empire remained vast in the last decades of the 18th century. Many English artists looked for inspiration in the exotic flora and fauna of the more distant colonies, and the British populace provided a ready and eagerly curious market for such images. Carthidge’s striking interpretations of these exotic images satisfied such public appetite for knowledge of the far away colonies, and won him great acclaim in the process. Representing a selection of the prototypes he personally created for an engraved publication, titled, The Figures of Several Plants both Exotics & of British Produce, these original watercolors render abundantly clear the reasons for Carthidge’s success.