Turquiose crossandra has long been valued medicinally in India, as a treatment for gout, rheumatism and jaundice. Recent tests have shown that an extract of the roots is an antioxidant and protects the liver of rats against damage by paracetamol.
This is a tough herbaceous plant growing to around 1m tall, found in dry scrub in North Africa, from Egypt to Kenya, through Arabia to India and Sri Lanka. The flower heads have green overlapping bracts from which the ice-blue-green flowers emerge. It was cultivated at the Chelsea Physic Garden as long ago as 1759, under the name Justicia.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the East India Company controlled much of the Indian subcontinent. Keen to exploit and export valuable natural commodities, the Company set out to record the flora of India and commissioned Indian artists to create detailed botanical illustrations. Many of the plants were known through their use in Ayurvedic medicine. One of the world’s oldest medicinal systems, it has been practised in India for 3,000 years.
Company School style paintings became popular with wealthy Europeans. It was not uncommon for East India Company officials (who were not employed as medics or botanists) to build their own personal collections of paintings depicting Indian flora and fauna. We cannot be sure how local amateur botanist Richard Cresswell came by this collection of 86 Company School works. It is possible Henry Creighton commissioned them during his time as a judge in Calcutta and that on his death the works came back to the UK with his granddaughter Frances who later married Richard Cresswell.