Orchidelirum 1898

1898 Orchidelirum

fig.I  Paphiopedilium Micranthum; fig. II  Catasetum Expansum & fig. III  Masdevallia Veitchiana

Three Pencil on Paper Drawings.  Archival Box. 660 x 1025 mm (individual drawings); 700 x 1050 x 150 mm (Box).

“There are the prizes in the lottery of orchids—hence the necessity of hunting them in their season of bloom.  The roots come snugly pack in wooden boxes.  Curiously, they will not bear the least touch of metal.  The boxes are commonly dove-tailed and often beautiful specimens of native joiner work.  Each box is carefully labeled, dated and marked with the temperature and altitude at which the plants it holds were found.” 

[The Omaha Daily Bee Newspaper, 1898]

Whilst orchids are common today, their appearance into Victorian society was explosive.  In Victorian England it was cited as: ‘a new sickness spread among the wealthiest in society: Orchidelirium—a mania for collecting orchids.’  It was a dangerous pursuit for those who would become known as Orchid Hunters, and an expensive one for those who were obsessed in collecting and possessing flowers, ones that seemed more like exotic creatures.  Special hunters were employed to track down exotic varieties in the wild and bring them to collectors, keen to display them in ornate, private greenhouses.  These three exceptional and diverse examples, attest to the  other-worldly, predatory and bewitching qualities, that shook modern society and permeated the psyche of the Victorian collector.

Created for the exhibition:  Nanostate Reading Room, London. (1999)

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