January 27, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace

        Queen Anne's lace is the wild carrot, introduced to America from Europe.  The froth of tiny white flowers looks like lace, and the single dark flower in the middle is said to represent a drop of blood where the queen pricked herself with her needle.  The funny thing is, though, it isn't called Queen Anne's lace any place there ever was a Queen Anne.  In the UK its common name is apparently "bishop's lace."  But Queen Anne's lace is a much better name, for two obvious reasons.  First, anything named after "Anne" has to be good.  (Okay, there may be a slight bias there.)  But secondly, anything with a name that begins with Q is invaluable to those of us with a love of alphabetics.  I have yet to see a botanical alphabet with Q represented by anything else but Queen Anne's lace.  (Hmm.. I guess you could use quince…)
        I have here today three block prints of Queen Anne's lace, from three gardening alphabets.  First up is the Q from Gerard Brender à Brandis's Wood Engraver's Alphabet.  It shows his all-over, meticulously detailed style.  But although his depiction is very detailed, it's not laid out at all like a botanical print but instead seems more like a close-up snapshot in a field, or else a design for fabric.  Queen Anne's lace, with its tiny white lines, is a natural for carving into a black background as Brender à Brandis has done here.
        The second Q comes from Mary Azarian's Gardener's Alphabet.  Azarian paints her wood block prints in this book with watercolor, making them perhaps less dramatic, but brighter and more cheerful.  Azarian's version is no botanical drawing either, since she's shown not only the plant but a whole scene of people picking and enjoying the flowers.  Although this piece mostly uses the more traditional black lines on white, the thick field of plants and flowers is actually done by leaving the black background.
        Finally, my version of Queen Anne's lace, made as the Q for my botanical alphabet poster.  Unlike the other two, I've focussed on just one plant, but like them I left the black background around all the tiny white details.  I made sure to include one of my favorite parts of the flower - not just the little flowerets, but the delicate, feathery spikes of the leaves and bracts.

[Pictures: Queen Anne's Lace, wood engraving by Gerard Brender à Brandis, from A Wood Engraver's Alphabet, 2008;
Queen Anne's Lace, wood block print with watercolor by Mary Azarian, from A Gardener's Alphabet, 2000;
Queen Anne's Lace, rubber block print by AEGN, 2007.]

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