Mary Delany

The Botanical Decoupage Artist

It's the birthday of Mary Delany Born today in 1700.

Mary Delany lead an extraordinary life. The family had forced her to marry a very old man when she was 17. He was an alcoholic. To make matters worse, when he died, he forgot to include her in his will.

Despite her lack of inheritance, Mary realized that, as a widow, she had much more freedom than she had as a single young lady. In society, she could do as she pleased.

Love came knocking on her door in June 1743 when she married a doctor named Patrick Delany - an Irish clergyman. Her family wasn't thrilled with the idea of her getting married again. But, Delany did it anyway. She and Patrick moved to Dublin where Delany had a home. They both shared a love for gardening.

When Patrick died, Mary was widowed again; this time at the age of 68.

But Mary's life was not over.

She hit it off with Margaret Bentinck. Bentinck was the Duchess of Portland, and together they pursued botanical activities. They loved to go out into the fields and collect specimens. It was thanks to the Duchess that Mary got to know Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander.

When Mary was in her early 70s, she took up decoupage - which was all the rage at the time - and she created marvelous depictions of flowers. Today, historians believe Mary probably dissected plants in order to create her art. Botanists from all over Europe would send her specimens. King George the Third and Queen Charlotte were her patrons. They ordered any curious or beautiful plant to be sent to Delany when in blossom so she could use them to create her art.

Her paper mosaics, as she called them, were made out of tissue paper. She created almost 1000 pieces of art between the ages of 71 and 88.

If you ever see any of her most spectacular decoupage pieces, you'll be blown away at the thought of them being made from tiny pieces of tissue paper by Mary Delany in the twilight of her life in the late 1700s.

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Mary Delany
Mary Delany

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