Apollonia Griffith (fl. 1830–50)

A young girl taking the veil, Avranches, Brittany

Apollonia Griffiths

Inscribed on label: A young girl taking the veil./
Avranches, pen and black ink and watercolour over traces of pencil with scratching out

18.2 x 15.2 cm; 7⅛ x 6 inches

It seems likely that Apollonia visited Avranches to see the botanical gardens which were founded in the grounds of the former Franciscan convent in the late 18th century.

The expansion and introduction of exotic species in the 19th century and the location of the gardens overlooking the bay made the gardens an important sight in the town.

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.