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Mrs Mary Delany (also known as Mary Pendarves, Mary Grenville, Mary Pendarves, Mary Grenville)

Mary Delany (née Granville) was a remarkable 18th-century British artist and botanist, renowned for her innovative and intricate botanical collages known as "paper mosaics." Born on May 14, 1700, in Coulston, Wiltshire, Mary Granville was the daughter of Bernard Granville and Mary Westcombe. Her family's aristocratic background provided her with opportunities for education and exposure to the arts, she was groomed for a place at court from an early age. However, her family's fortunes were reversed by the death of Queen Anne in 1714. In 1717 she went to join the Lansdowne family at Longleat, Lord Lansdowne being her paternal uncle. There she met Alexander Pendarves, a wealthy man 40 years her senior. They were married the next year, but the union, however, proved to be an unhappy one, as Pendarves was abusive and the couple lacked compatibility. After his death in 1724, Mary became a widow at the age of 24 and inherited a substantial fortune, granting her financial independence. She was popular in society despite her lack of fortune, and she made many friends.

Mary's life took a significant turn in 1731 when she married Patrick Delany, an Irish clergyman. This marriage was more harmonious and marked a period of intellectual and social growth for Mary. The couple was part of the literary and scientific circles of their time, engaging with prominent figures such as Jonathan Swift and John Wesley.

Mary's interest in botany and the natural sciences flourished during this period. She developed a close friendship with Sir Joseph Banks, a prominent botanist, and became an honorary member of the Society of Apothecaries. Her keen observation and artistic talent led her to create intricate botanical collages, composed of carefully cut and layered pieces of colored paper. These "paper mosaics" were not only aesthetically pleasing but also scientifically accurate, showcasing her deep understanding of plant anatomy.

One of Mary Delany's most notable achievements was her series of collages titled "Flora Delanica." This extensive collection consisted of nearly 1,000 botanical illustrations and documented a wide array of plant species. The accuracy and attention to detail in her work earned her recognition as a pioneering botanical artist.

Mary's contributions to botany and art were not limited to her creations. She corresponded with leading naturalists of her time, including Carl Linnaeus, and her letters and writings reflected her passion for both the natural world and the arts.

Mary eventually returned to London, spending most summers at Bulstrode in Buckinghamshire with her friend the Duchess of Portland. The friends improved the gardens, and in 1774 Mary began to make the ‘paper mosaics' which were to become her best achievement. She used coloured tissue to cut all the parts of a plant to create a perfect specimen.

George III and Queen Charlotte were regular visitors to Bulstrode, and after the death of the Duchess of Portland in 1785 the king gave Mary a house at Windsor and a pension. She died at Windsor Castle in 1788.

Several plants were donated to Mary by society figures of the day. She used these plants as models for her collages. The following is a list of the donors and the sites from which the plants were sourced:

Astley, Mrs: Barnes

Dartmouth, Lord: Black Heath

[Portland, Dwr. Duchess of]: Bulstrode

Yalden, Mr: Bulstrode

[Miller, Philip]: Chelsea Physic Garden

John Boyd Bt, Sir: Dansen

Mr & Mrs Keally: Delville, Dublin

Booth Grey, Mr: Dr. Fothergill's [garden] Upton, Essex; [Dunham Massey or Worksop?]; Ealing

Lee, Mr James: [Vineyard Nursery] Hammersmith

Lee, Mr James: Hammersmith

Pitcairn, Dr William: Islington

[Aiton, W.]: Kew

Farwell, Mr: Kew

Willoughby, Lord: Lord Willoughby's Marsh Garden

Bute, Lord: Luton [Hoo]; Luton Park

Lawrence, The Revd. Mr: Mount Vesuvias

Bateman, Mr: Old Windsor

Conway, General: Park Place, [originally] from Jersey

Jennings, Miss: Shiplack

Northumberland, Duke of: Sion [House]

Fothergill, Dr: Upton, Essex; Weymouth

Portland, Dowager Duchess of: Whitehall; Wimbledon

Other plant donors from unspecified locations:

Dashwood, Mrs

Queen Charlotte

Weddel Mrs

Mansfield, Lord

Rockingham, Lord

Howard, Sir George

Lawrence, The Revd. Mr

Harcourt, Lord

Pultney, Mrs [?wife of Richard Pulteney of Dorset]

Weymouth, Lady

Cullum: The Rev: Sir John

Lightfoot, Mr [John]

Jennings, Miss

Mary Delany passed away on April 15, 1788, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire botanists, artists, and admirers of her work. Her botanical collages are preserved in various institutions, including the British Museum. Mary's life and accomplishments serve as a testament to the possibilities that arise when one combines scientific curiosity with artistic expression.


  1. "The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72" by Molly Peacock.
  2. "Mrs. Delany: Her Life and Her Flowers" by Ruth Hayden.
  3. "Mary Delany: A Life" by Clarissa Campbell Orr.
  4. The British Museum. "Mary Delany's Paper Mosaics."

Schnorrenberg, Barbara Brandon, 'Delany, Mary (1700-1788) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2006) [accessed 21 June 2009]

Laird, Mark and Weisberg-Roberts, Alicia Mrs. Delany and Her Circle (Yale University Press, 2009)

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