The 17th and 18th centuries saw a proliferation of ornament prints, popular sources of patterns among artisans who circulated designs across long distances. Marot, a Huguenot expatriate to the Netherlands and court artist to William III of Orange, was a central figure in the creation of the William and Mary style. In 1905, the Hewitt sisters were introduced to Jean-Léon Decloux in Paris during one of their acquisitions trips. Decloux collected drawings, print albums, and decorative arts objects, and soon became one of their agents for purchasing works on paper. To cement the relationship, he quickly donated examples of French ornamental paneling. On Decloux’s recommendation, the Hewitt sisters encouraged the museum’s advisory council to purchase over 500 drawings from Decloux’s collection in 1911; in 1921, the museum acquired 413 albums of Decloux’s ornament prints and related preparatory drawings.
The Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory, established in London in 1745, was a short walk from the Chelsea Physic Garden, where the firm’s painters had access to an abundance of plants for in-person study. This book Figures of the Most Beautiful… contains drawings of more than 300 specimens of plants from the Chelsea Physic Garden, which were referenced for the decoration on these ten plates. While fashionable in subject matter and style, flowers, insects, and leaves also played a practical role to disguise flaws and imperfections in the plates’ delicate porcelain and glaze