Apollonia Griffith (fl. 1830–50)

Apollonia Griffiths

Malacca

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Inscribed verso: Malacca/where dear William died & was buried/Feby. 4th 1845, watercolour over traces of pencil, further inscribed again on original label, signed on the flyleaf of the album from which it comes

13.8 x 23 cm.; 5⅜ x 9 inches

Apollonia Griffith was a talented print maker and watercolourist. Her father was the London merchant Thomas Griffith of Ham Common, who had four children including her brother William, celebrated for his contribution to Indian botany.

William studied medicine at London University, where his botanical interests developed. In 1832 he joined the East India Company as an assistant surgeon at Madras. After trips to Bhutan and Afghanistan, he took charge of Calcutta Botanic Garden in 1842. Only three years later he was to die at Malacca of hepatitis, leaving behind a widow, young child and three maiden sisters. A cenotaph was erected to commemorate him in the Botanic Garden in Calcutta.

On his deathbed William asked fellow botanist John McClelland to sort through and publish his manuscript papers, and it is through these posthumous memoirs, journals of his travels on the Indian subcontinent published in 1847 with lithographs by Apollonia, that Griffith’s work is so widely known and celebrated. Her role is praised in the introduction to the memoirs:

we owe the transfer of the landscapes to stone, which add so much to the appearance of the following volume, to the talent and kindness of his sister.