Understanding Scientific Names on Botanical Prints

Knysna Lily
The Knysna Lily, Cyrtanthus obliquus

Botanical, sea-life and other classic natural history prints were created originally to both educate the public and please the eye.  When you purchase a vintage botanical print, you hold a piece of science history in your hand!

But how to decipher the writing found on these antique prints?

Usually the artist signed the piece on the lower left.  The engraver, who took the original painting and engraved the printing press plate to match it, often signed the lower right side.

Sadly, a third artist, the colorist, who applied the paint to each engraving by hand, did not usually receive credit on the print itself.  Often these colorists were highly talented women.

The center label, or caption, of the painting was traditionally the scientific name of the plant(s) or animal(s) illustrated.  Sometimes the scientific name was given in the common language of the artist, such as French or German, along with the Latin name.

Why scientific names are in Latin

The art of botanical paintings and prints evolved from the Medieval and Renaissance interest in growing and using herbs. They first botanical prints were found in herbaria, or books of herbal remedies written and illustrated by the doctors of the day, the herbalists.

During this time in Europe, the language used by all intellectuals was Latin.

The scientific naming conventions we use today began with the famous plant scientist Linnaeus in the 18th century.

Before that time, scientists writing about a plant or animal were hamstrung with long seven or eight-word long names for a single species. But using Linnaeus’s system, a particular living thing can be accurately identified using only the last two of these: the Genus name and the species name, for example, Homo sapiens.

Not all scientific names are necessarily pure Latin words, but they have been given Latin endings, such as “is” and “ae.”

This two-part name is sometimes called as the “binomen” because bi- means “two” in Latin. The first term is capitalized but the second term is not.  The entire name is usually printed in italics.

How scientists choose names

Many scientific names reveal something special about the plant or animal being named.  For example, the Fritillaria Imperialis, or Crown Imperial Fritillary, was named for its swirling crown of green leaves set above the orange and yellow bell shaped flower, like an Imperial crown on a ruler’s head.

Another example: The Cyrtanthus obliquus is a gorgeous orange-red flower related to the Amaryllis.  The word, “obliquus” stands for “oblique,” meaning “slanted or sloped.”  This species was obviously named for its large, heavy flowers which hang downward from the top of the flower stalk.

The scientist who first discovers a new species gets the honor of naming it, even if they were the first by only a few minutes! Often they may choose to name it after themselves or a loved one.

For example, the originally named Exonautes Gilberti (common name blackwinged flyingfish) was most likely first noted by a scientist with the name of Gilbert. The Genus name Exonautes probably referred to the fact that the fish “exits” the ocean when it flies through the air, like an astronaut. Today, the currently accepted name has been changed to Hirundichthys rondeletii.

Why scientific names change

Interestingly, the currently accepted scientific names of many species of plants and animals have changed over time as botanists and zoologists from different countries and continents compared notes and learned more about each species and how they are related.

For example, a common yellow flowered herb, called coffeeweed, was originally named Cassia occidentalis in an 1816 British publication, The Botanic Register. But the currently accepted name of the plant has been changed to Senna occidentalis.

This herb and coffee substitute grows in tropical areas all over the world, such as Hawaii and Brazil.  Local common names include coffeeweed, coffee senna, Mogdad coffee, senna coffee, Stephanie coffee, and stinkingweed.

With so many common names from so many locations, it’s easy to see why using a single scientific name is important to scientists who work all over the world.

How to find the currently accepted name for a botanical print

Fortunately, even though many scientific names have been changed, it’s easy to look up the original name of your botanical print using online universal plant and animal species listings, such as:

With these and other searchable sites, such as Wikipedia, you will often be able to match the original scientific name of your botanical print with the currently accepted name now used universally by scientists in the field.

Copyright 2011-Holly B. Martin

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Redouté’s Famous Rose Art Prints

The 18th and 19th century French painter, Pierre-Joseph Redouté (ray-DEW-tay),  has become world-renowned for his beautifully detailed botanical illustrations, particularly his paintings of roses.

Redouté was born in Belgium 1759, and followed in his father’s footsteps from a very young age, decorating churches and painting portraits.

His brother invited him to Paris to help decorate a theater, and there the gifted artist began to blossom. He spent his spare time painting flowers in the King’s gardens.

It was there that Redouté met the botanist Charles L’Héritier, who encouraged the young artist to focus on the scientific accuracy of his work, along with his natural artistry.  L’Héritier helped the young man publish his first illustrations.

Creating botanical illustrations

To create the prints from his original paintings, Redouté used the labor-intensive technologies of his day.  He created several color separated engraving plates for each illustration, and then added final touches by hand to each print.

As Redoute’s reputation grew, he attracted the attention of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who chose him to decorate the walls of her  palace.

But when France was overtaken by Revolutionaries, the queen was imprisoned. Late one night, Marie-Antoinette summoned Redouté to her cell, where she asked him to paint a favorite cactus plant due to flower at midnight. It was the last time the artist saw the queen alive.

Painter to the Empress

Somehow Redouté survived the French Revolution, despite his position with the Queen, and later he became “Painter to the Empress” Josephine Bonaparte (Napoleon’s wife).

By this time, Redouté was enjoying the height of his success, and was able to purchase a home in the country as well as an apartment in the city, complete with a studio.  He was married and had a daughter, Josephine.

There was plenty of money, and Redouté spent lavishly, in spite of his wife’s protests. Eventually, however, Redouté became the victim of politics, his own generosity, and his lack of ability to manage money.

Painting Les Roses

It was at this point that Redouté began work on a volume of paintings called Les Roses, which became his greatest achievement. For this project, he often painted in the gardens at Malmaison, enjoying the roses with the Empress Josephine.  When she died, her heirs invited Redouté to remain official painter at Malmaison, though they were no longer able to pay him for his work.

Meanwhile, the family’s unpaid bills were mounting and Redouté was forced to mortgage the country home.  The large-format edition of Les Roses was an artistic triumph, but printing costs made it too expensive.

Wrong botanical names

A small, more affordable edition followed, but Redouté was criticized by botanists for printing the wrong names for some of the new plants.

Though he was broke and forced to sell his furniture and his original paintings, Redouté was awarded the French Medal of Honor in 1825.  Later, Redouté received the Distinguished Order from King Leopold of Belgium, his native country.

Redouté continued to paint flowers and tutor his art students until he died in 1840 at the age of 81. The Louvre houses many of Redouté’s works.

Click here to shop for Redoute rose prints.

Copyright 2011 by Holly B. Martin  All Rights Reserved.

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Buying the Best Ocean Art Prints for Coastal Cottage Decor

Vintage fish print
Vintage fish print provides lively decor for a children’s room

Coastal cottage style is one of the most popular decorating styles due to its down-to-earth warmth combined with the exotic feel of an endless summer vacation.

And in almost every cottage decor magazine you’re guaranteed to see a liberal use of ocean-themed nature art prints.

Whether it’s a pair of black and white over-sized starfish prints in the dining room or a casual grouping of framed pages from a vintage field guide to shells lined up on a bathroom shelf, ocean art prints can enhance any room in your home.

The highly colorful oceanography prints, combining all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures such as squid, sea cucumbers and other crustaceans, work especially well in children’s rooms.

But where can you find prints of fish, undersea-life and oceanscapes at a reasonable cost?  One source is ebay: search on the term “Vintage fish prints.”

Another source for ocean and coastal vintage art prints is TIAS.com. TIAS is an online antique and collectibles mall featuring dozens of individual shops. You can search for vintage sea shell prints and find them offered by many unique sellers.

The prints are usually colored bookplates from actual original books, so they may be printed on both sides.   Or, the prints may be digitally enhanced from the originals and re-printed with high-quality modern inks on acid-free paper.

Because the prints started out as book pages, they are never very large.  Sizes range from about 5 x 7 inches to 12 x 16 inches.  Some illustrations covered a two-page spread and may leave a crease in the middle.

Using today’s high-quality scanners and printers, you may be able to scan the original print and size it up (or down) to fit the desired frame size (and because they are vintage prints, no copyright laws should apply).

Most unframed prints sell at a very reasonable cost of between $5 and $40 and are shipped in squash-proof envelopes.

Copyright 2011 by Holly B. Martin. All Rights Reserved.

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What’s the Best Way to Buy Botanical Art Prints?

Roses by Paul de Longpre, Athaneum

You’ve seen them in all the shelter magazines–from Traditional to Modern Eclectic to Romantic and French Country styles. Botanicals and realistic nature prints of other subjects such as sea shells, ferns and exotic birds, fit into so many kinds of home decor, that they never seem to go out of style.

But, aside from ordering through a high-priced decorator with a 100 percent markup, where can you buy botanical art prints for your own home?

One source is your local frame shop.  You may not see exactly what you want on display, so ask to look through the catalogs.  Often a shop will order prints and not charge you until you see them and decide to buy.

Another source of botanical prints is eBay. Search under the Arts & Antiques section for prints or floral art, or by the artist’s name.  Many eBay stores carry botanicals by the most well-known artists, such as Redoute and de Longpre. Generally, the prints you find on eBay will be framed, and they are usually available to buy instantly, without going through an auction.

Framed botanical art prints are also sold at discount, department and home specialty stores. Most often, these are matted in pink, hunter green or maroon, and framed in gold. You may get lucky and find the perfect print for your wall, with a mat and frame coordinated with your decor, at a very reasonable price.

However, to get the exact print you want, in the perfect mat and frame, and at the best price, try an online source, such as Art.com.

By searching through online catalogs, you get the largest possible selection to choose from.  Then, using the miracle of technology, you can “try out” your print with different mat and frame combinations.  Some art websites have a page that allows you to display the print, mat and frame on a background color that matches your walls.

Because internet art sites skip the middleman, they can offer botanical art prints at the lowest possible price.  Your order can be shipped quickly and within a week, you can enjoy the beauty and tradition of botanical art prints gracing the walls of your home.

Copyright 2011 by Holly B. Martin. All Rights Reserved.

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Botanical Prints by Paul de Longpré, the “King of Flowers”

Botanical Print by Paul de Longpre Roses and Bumblebees, 1899

Paul de Longpré (1855-1911), sometimes known as “The King of Flowers,” painted botanical art works that were not only scientifically accurate, but also pleasing to the eye.  Prints of his botanical paintings are still popular with those who wish to add an authentic touch to rooms decorated in the Romantic, English Country, French Country, and Cottage styles.

De Longpré was born in France in 1855, into an artistic family, which was known for painting flower patterns for the textile mills of Lyons. His first oil painting was accepted for exhibition at the Paris Salon when he was only 21 years old.

Although he became widely popular for his botanical paintings, de Longpré left France in 1890 after losing money in a bank failure.  He moved with his wife and daughters to the United States, settling in New York City.

Once in the U.S., de Longpré continued to meet with success.  He exhibited his first painting, Basket of Purple Lilacs, at the National Academy of Design in 1892. The de Longpré family later moved to Hollywood, where the artist could find fresh flowers blooming year round.

In Hollywood, de Longpré built a large Moorish-style house with a 3-acre garden, which held more than 3,000 rose bushes alone.  Not only was the garden a source for de Longpre’s artistic inspiration, it became a well-known tourist attraction.

Although the house was eventually torn down, a street nearby retains the name, “De Longpré Avenue.”

The artist continued to win awards and acclaim, especially for his beautifully sensitive paintings of roses.  De Longpré died on June 29, 1911.

Copyright 2009-2011 by Holly B. Martin. All Rights Reserved.

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What is a Giclée Nature Art Print?


Nature Art Print using Giclee Printing Process

Many nature art prints are made by the Giclée printing process.  The term Giclée comes from the French and is pronounced “zhee-clay.” It is based on the verb meaning “to spray.”

Giclée is an advanced printmaking process that uses ink jet printing technology, along with fade-resistant “archival” inks, to create high-quality fine art reproductions. The inks used are specially formulated to last as long as 75 years.  It is the ink jet nozzle, or
sprayer, which gives us the term Giclée.

To make a Giclée print, first the artist creates an original work of art using conventional means such as painting, drawing or photography.  Then a printer reproduces the artwork digitally using the Giclée process. The result is nearly an exact replica of the original piece, achieving exceptional intensity of color and intricate detail.

Giclée prints are valued by galleries, museums, and private collectors. The artwork can be printed on either fine quality art paper or on a stretched canvas, which is mounted on a lightweight wooden frame.

Once you have selected your Giclée nature art print, choose a mat and frame that coordinate with your room’s decor.  The result will be a valuable and beautiful piece of artwork that will enhance your bedroom, study, front hall, living room or home office for years to come.

Copyright 2009-2011 by Holly B. Martin. All Rights Reserved.

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Welcome to Best Nature Prints!

Tulip print by Gerard Van Spaendonck

Buying beautiful art for your home has never been easier! Whether you are looking for a vintage botanical, bird’s nest, bird egg or sea-life print, you’ve come to the right place.

Best Nature Prints offers you information on the best sources for the following types of art prints:

  • Botanical prints
  • Victorian floral art prints
  • Sea shell prints
  • Fish prints
  • Natural history prints
  • Bird’s nest prints
  • Bird’s egg prints

Once you’ve selected your nature art print, we are committed to providing you the latest information you need to properly mat and frame your print to preserve its beauty as well as its value.

Finally, we offer suggestions for the best frames and the best way to use botanical and natural history prints in every style decor, from French Traditional to Shabby Chic, from Eclectic to Romantic Prairie, Modern Country to Asian fusion.  Classic nature art prints will enhance every room in your home.

Copyright 2009-2011 by Holly B. Martin. All Rights Reserved.

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