Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s Scenes from Virginia and Europe
This scene was a favorite of Latrobe's. "This view," he wrote, "has a particular beauty. The brilliant white Surge of the Atlantic, and it extends its ample bosom."
Recalling Shakespeare's idea of, "this fortress built by nature for herself," Latrobe remarks that this view of coast of England at Hastings was almost inaccessible, due to the high surf and large cliffs. These natural impediments, he wrote, made the area safe from an enemy army's invasion.
This view of the coast of Hastings was taken from the same point as the previous image, but looking in the opposite direction.
This view is 10 miles below "Hors du Monde," the home of Colonel Henry Skipwith (1751-1815). A sketch of the home, done by Latrobe in 1796, is held by the Maryland Historical Society and can be viewed on their website.
This vignette represents a batteaux navigating the James River. Latrobe complained that his depiction was not accurate - that the actual vessels were 60 to 75 feet long and from 5 to 6 feet wide. A typical batteaux, he wrote, could carry 12 hogshead of tobacco or 200 to 300 bushels of coal.
This view is below "Eppington." Built around 1770, it was the home of Francis Eppes VI (1747-1808), who married the half-sister of Thomas Jefferson’s wife. Jefferson admired the plantation on the Appomattox River and visited often.
Latrobe raved about the banks of the James River and what they offered to painters. "They furnish a Cabinet of select Landscapes for study, among which it is impossible to chuse amiss."
Latrobe gives an account of his own observation of the mason wasp. "Deserving of particular notice," he writes. "I think the Mason deserves to have his picture drawn."
Goose barnacles are filter-feeding crustaceans, that depend on water motion for feeding, and thus are found exclusively on exposed or moderately exposed coasts. In Portugal and Spain, they are a widely consumed and expensive delicacy known as percebes.
In this vignette Latrobe has depicted a sea anemone on a rock above the surf, exhibiting "the most beautiful colors in an innumerable tassel of fibres, which radiate from the center."
According to Latrobe, "These curious beings are of the simplest construction consisting only, like the Worms of a mouth, surrounded with feelers with which they catch their food, - and a stomach to digest it."
This colorful depiction of the flycatcher or "Venus Fly Trap" shows unsuspecting flies approaching the plant, and other insects doomed to a crushing death inside the strong traps with spiked edges.
Time-lapse of Water Lilies Blooming
There are also night-blooming water lilies, but they do not tolerate cool water well, and will not grow or bloom in water that is below 72 degrees.
All images from "An Essay on Landscape," Latrobe, Benjamin Henry, 1798-1799. Manuscripts & Special Collections, Library of Virginia.
Research, text, and arrangement by Jim Greve & Mary Kate du Laney, with assistance from Audrey McElhinney & Sonya Coleman.
Imaging by the LVA Photo & Digital Imaging Services Department
For the Library of Virginia