Madeleine Françoise Basseporte or her circle

According to an obituary published in 1781, Basseporte, who began her career as a portraitist, turned to scientific illustration because it provided a more reliable source of income, allowing her to support her widowed mother. She was exceedingly suc- cessful in this line of work, becoming the first woman to occupy the position of official painter of the Jardin du roi, the royal botanical gardens in Paris. This study of a crown imperial marries scientific description with dazzling illusionism. Although the plant is placed against a blank background, parts of the stem, leaves, and green “crown” extend beyond the embellished double border, playfully exploring the boundary between image and reality.

Madeleine Françoise Basseporte or her circle French, 1701–1780
Fritillaria imperialis (Crown Imperial), ca. 1750
Watercolor over graphite on vellum
The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of Junius S. Morgan and Henry S. Morgan; 1952.29:64