Extremely rare 19th century carved leaf, ten known existing examples


Rare carved leaf art from the 19th century; I can find only ten existing examples (more below) due to the fragile nature of the medium.

I bought three old poetry books from The Valentine's (Richmond, VA) library deaccession auction. In an 18th century Falconer's The Shipwreck, this leaf was tucked into the gutter.

History of Carved Leaves -

Scientists were experimenting with leaves, sometimes removing the fleshy parts to leave only the skeleton, for some time. For example, John Martyn, Professor of Botany University of Cambridge, in his Philosophical Transactions of 1747, gives a lengthy discussion of the leaf's skeleton, also claiming that Professor Rusch (a Dutch botanist) was the first to skeletonize leaves on page 818.

In 1862 Edward Parrish authored a book, The Phantom Bouquet, giving instructions on how to make skeletonized bouquets. In this book, he mentions that painted leaf skeletons had been available for purchase as Chinese imports.

The Phantom Bouquet became a bit of a 19th century craze and the Library of Congress holds a few photos of them.

Still, in all these given examples there are only skeletons produced. I found no literature on partial dissection of the leaves for art.

Known Examples -

The Victoria and Albert holds one leaf labelled "Silhouette", dated 1835, showing a balloon and crowd.

And the Shaw Hudson House found nine carved leaves in a box in Plainfield Massachusetts.

Those are the only examples I've found.

About the Scene -

Regarding my leaf, although it looks like a government building, I believe it's actually a plantation-like home due to the roof. Most large government/religious neoclassical buildings (all the columns) have a triangular peak above the front, but this leaf has a roof that is more reminiscent of large American estates.

Modern Leaf Carving -

A resurgence of leaf art occurred around 2013. There are quite a few modern examples, with several active artists; they garnered some press that you might have seen. Even in those articles, 19th century examples were mostly ignored, most articles claiming a "new" art.

Case -

I utilized a large hard plastic baseball card protector; this frame has an inside indent (designed for a baseball card) that allows the perfect amount of space for the leaf to not be crushed, but held in place.

The frame does have a tab for hanging on the reverse.

Condition -

See pictures. Although the case is new, from the manufacturer, it shows more wear and marks than I would have expected from the manufacturing process.

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