An obscure painter during the Golden Age of Botanical Art, Dorothea Eliza Smith (1804-1864) went beyond the creation of purely ornamental illustrations: she also had a more technical eye. For example, cutting the fruits in half to showing their seeds, and also illustrating different stages of fruit development. The Mansana-helada, a frozen apple, pictured in this frontispiece from The Fruits of the Lima Market is surrounded by a cornucopia of different fruits, including oranges, peaches, strawberries, and grapes, which are illustrated in greater detail throughout the rest of the collection. This frontispiece, which mainly illustrates typical temperate rather than tropical fruits, gives a preview of her characteristic combination of thoughtful compositions with meticulous observation.

The label for this frontispiece reads: “A group of different sorts of fruit: the Mansana-helada, or frozen-ap[p]le, cut in the centre of the group.” Each of the watercolors in The Fruits of the Lima Market are carefully labelled with the scientific and local names of the fruits. Her work is a tribute to the beauty, fragrance, and ephemeral moment when each fruits is full ripe. Along with the illustrations Smith also records details of the height of the plants and the size of the leaves, as well as when they ripen. It has been speculated that these careful notes reflect a collaboration between Smith and her husband, Dr. Archibald Smith, who had been working in Peru for a mining company and is who is also famous for his own nonfiction account of Peru in the late nineteenth century. However, the importance of Smith’s work resides in the illustrations themselves. They are executed with great care and in meticulous detail. The collection was ultimately inherited by her daughter Isabella.


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