Helianthus annuus L.

Print
1770-1777 (made)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Initially, taxonomy or the classification of plants was haphazard and inconsistent. In the 17th century there gradually developed a new system, based on the physical similarities between the reproductive features of plants. Thus illustration, which in the herbal tradition had been simply a means of distinguishing one plant from another, now took on the role of analytic tool. It was used to record the detailed physical character of the plant and show the similarity of characteristics.

In this image Miller displays a sunflower at different stages of development to give a fuller picture of the plant's lifecycle. The book from which this illustration is taken attempted to illustrate the Linnaean classification system. Devised by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, this system organised species according to the physical similarities of their reproductive parts.

Miller's 'Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus' was one of the most successful books of the time. The publication appeared in parts between 1770 and 1777. The plants illustrated are mostly common varieties such as this sunflower. Linnaeus himself praised its illustrations as 'more beautiful and more accurate than any since the world began.'


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional Titles
  • Sunflower (popular title)
  • Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus (series title)
Brief Description
Botanical illustration by Johann Sebastian Müller (John Miller), hand-coloured engraving of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus), for An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus, published in parts in London, 1770-1777; British.
Physical Description
Botanical study. Sunflower, showing stem and leaves, and two flowers shown one from the front and the other from the back. Behind and below are drawings of various parts of the flowers, petals and seed pods.
Dimensions
  • Height: 55cm
  • Max width: 38.1cm
  • Platemark height: 44cm
  • Platemark width: 29.5cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Helianthus (pencil, lower centre)
  • J. Miller pixt. (Lower centre)
Gallery Label
John Miller 1715-92 Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) 1770-7 Miller's 'Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus' was one of the most successful books of the time. Linnaeus himself praised its illustrations as 'more beautiful and more accurate than any since the world began.' Here, in a single plate Miller gives a complete account of the structure of a sunflower, with details and views from different angles. London Hand-coloured engraving Plate from 'An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus' (London, 1770-7) V&A: E.57-1892(2011)
Subjects depicted
Summary
Initially, taxonomy or the classification of plants was haphazard and inconsistent. In the 17th century there gradually developed a new system, based on the physical similarities between the reproductive features of plants. Thus illustration, which in the herbal tradition had been simply a means of distinguishing one plant from another, now took on the role of analytic tool. It was used to record the detailed physical character of the plant and show the similarity of characteristics.



In this image Miller displays a sunflower at different stages of development to give a fuller picture of the plant's lifecycle. The book from which this illustration is taken attempted to illustrate the Linnaean classification system. Devised by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, this system organised species according to the physical similarities of their reproductive parts.



Miller's 'Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus' was one of the most successful books of the time. The publication appeared in parts between 1770 and 1777. The plants illustrated are mostly common varieties such as this sunflower. Linnaeus himself praised its illustrations as 'more beautiful and more accurate than any since the world began.'
Bibliographic Reference
Miller, John. An Illustration of the Sexual System of Linnaeus. London, issued in parts between 1770-1777 and as a folio edition in 1779.
Collection
Accession Number
E.57-1892

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record createdJune 30, 2009
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