Pancrace Bessa (1772 - 1846)

Drawing for the Herbier général de l’amateur: A Violet Passion Flower (Passiflora violacea) Sold

Watercolour and gouache, over a pencil underdrawing, heightened with gum arabic, on vellum.
Signed P. Bessa in the lower left margin.
268 x 193 mm. (10 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.) [sheet]

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This watercolour is part of Pancrace Bessa’s most important commission; a series of 572 watercolours on vellum for the most significant French flower periodical of the day, Jean-Claude-Michel Mordant de Launay and Jean-Louis-Auguste Loiseleur-Deslongchamps’s Herbier général de l’amateur. Commissioned by Charles X, King of France, and published in eight volumes, the project was begun in 1816 and Bessa worked on the series until 1827. Bessa’s beautiful watercolours were superbly reproduced for the book, in the form of hand-coloured engravings by various printmakers, led by Pierre François Barrois (b.1788).

A tendril-climbing vine, the violet passion flower, or Passiflora violacea, is characterized by deep pink or purple flowers with dark purple or white centres. It is a cross of a blue passion flower (Passiflora caerulea) and a red passion flower (Passiflora racimosa), and was obtained in 1824 by Jean Loiseleur-Deslongchamps, a French botanist who edited the later volumes of the Herbier général de l’amateur.

Provenance:
Part of the complete set of drawings by Pancrace Bessa for the Herbier général de l’amateur, commissioned from the artist by Charles X, King of France, with later provenance as follows:
Presented by Charles X to his daughter-in-law, the Duchesse de Berri, in 1826
By descent to her sister, Teresa Cristina, later Empress Consort of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro
Given to João Barbosa Rodrigues, Rio de Janeiro
By descent to his widow, until sold at auction in Brazil in c.1922
Paulo Campos-Porto, Rio de Janeiro
His sale, Beverly Hills, Lewis S. Hart Gallery, 17 November 1947
Addison Fine Arts, San Francisco.

Literature:
Jean-Claude-Michel Mordant de Launay and Jean-Louis-Auguste Loiseleur-Deslongchamps, Herbier général de l’amateur, contenant la description, l’histoire, les propriétés et la culture des végétaux utiles et agréables, Vol.VII, Paris, 1824, pl.499.

Pancrace BESSA

Drawing for the Herbier général de l’amateur: A Violet Passion Flower (Passiflora violacea)

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