Wednesday Geek Woman: Mary Delany, amateur of science and gifted craftswoman

Wednesday Geek Woman submissions are open for one more day after this post appears.

Portrait of Mary Delany (née Granville) by John Opie

Portrait of Mary Delany (née Granville) by John Opie, National Portrait Gallery, London

Lesley Hall recently published an essay on the missing narratives of women in science in L Timmel Duchamp (ed), Narrative Power: Encounters, Celebrations, Struggles, Aqueduct Press, 2010

Mary Delany (née Greville, previous married name Pendarves) (1700–1788), amateur of science and gifted craftswoman.

Mary Greville was born to a well-connected aristocratic family and had the benefits of an excellent education, although her particular branch of the family was not well-off, leading to her first, very unhappy, marriage to a much older man. During the course of her long life, she engaged in various forms of craftwork, including embroidery and making shell designs, and what she is perhaps most famous for, a series of flower collages in paper. While these, and her embroideries reveal the skill of her hands and the quality of her taste, they also demonstrate accurate botanical details of the flowers she depicted.

Along with her close friend, the Duchess of Portland, Delany was part of an extensive circle of individuals with an informed interest in the eighteenth century development of the study of nature in its numerous forms, and who were introducing the new Linnaean system of classification. Her collages were praised by such authorities as Sir Joseph Banks. Art, science and craft were intricately associated in her life and her productions.

A splendid piece about Delany and the need to take a less condescending view of women’s craftwork in the past by historian of C18th domestic life, Amanda Vickery
Some examples of Delany’s collages, embroidery and drawings
Molly’s Flora Delanica {A Tribute to Mrs. Delany} : video, including reconstruction of Delany’s collage methods.

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