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Watercolour - American Turk's-cap lily (Lilium superbum)
  • American Turk's-cap lily (Lilium superbum)
    Ehret, Georg Dionysus, born 1708 - died 1770
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American Turk's-cap lily (Lilium superbum)

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    London, England (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1740s (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ehret, Georg Dionysus, born 1708 - died 1770 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum

  • Museum number:

    D.589-1886

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case TOPIC, shelf DP, box 2

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Ehret was one of the greatest botanical illustrators working in the 18th century. He supplied illustrations for a number of important botanical publications. He was also closely involved in publicising and promoting the binomial system of plant classification that was devised by the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus.

Ehret painted this plant study in the 1740s, at the height of his mature style. We do not know the precise date, but a near identical version is dated 1745. In the text Ehret notes that ‘this lily first flowered in August 1738’, in the garden of Peter Collinson. Collinson was an avid collector of new plants, and lived just outside London. Ehret often studied plants in his collection. Dr C. J. Trew reproduced a version of this picture in his book Plantae Selectae, which he published in Nuremberg between 1750 and 1773.

Place of Origin

London, England (probably, painted)

Date

1740s (painted)

Artist/maker

Ehret, Georg Dionysus, born 1708 - died 1770 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum

Dimensions

Height: 53.2 cm, Width: 37 cm

Descriptive line

Watercolour by G.D. Ehret depicting Turk's-cap lily, 1740s

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

'Picturing Plants: an analytical history of botanical illustration'; Gill Saunders; Zwemmer in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum; 1995; no. 60; page 87
60 Georg Dionysus Ehret (1708-70)
American Turk's-cap Lily
('Lilium superbum')
Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum

Painted in the 1740s, at the height of Ehret's mature style, this image exemplifies the heightened realism that he achieved in his finest work. Though Ehret had worked with Linnaeus since the late 1730s when they collaborated on the 'Hortus Cliffortianus' (1737) the caption to this picture does not use the Linnaean binomial system but prefers the older, discredited method of using a string of descriptive Latin terms. However the Swedish botanist's influence is evident in the character of the illustration. The Linnaean system depended on the flower and an enumeration of the stamens and pistils, and their relation to one another. Thus Ehret has chosen to show only the flower-spike, ignoring the rest of the plant; the flowers themselves are painted in almost 'trompe l'oeil' detail, from every angle, and in bud and full bloom. It is thus perfectly possible to classify this plant without ever seeing the thing itself.

In addition to the plant's descriptive name, Ehret includes a lengthy Latin description about the plant and the circumstances in which he studied it. He notes that 'this lily first flowered in August 1738, in the garden of Peter Collinson', an avid collector of new plants. It is not clear precisely when this finished portrait was made; this version is undated, but a near identicl plate which appeared at Christie's in 1994 is signed and dated 1745. Ehret often made copies of his more successful compositions, as commissions or gifts. One version of this was certainly sent to C.J. Trew, who published it in 'Plantae Selectae' (1750-73).
'Picturing Plants: an analytical history of botanical illustration'; Gill Saunders; KWS Publishers; 2009; no. 60; page 87
60 Georg Dionysus Ehret (1708-70)
American Turk's-cap Lily
('Lilium superbum')
Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum

Painted in the 1740s, at the height of Ehret's mature style, this image exemplifies the heightened realism that he achieved in his finest work. Though Ehret had worked with Linnaeus since the late 1730s when they collaborated on the 'Hortus Cliffortianus' (1737) the caption to this picture does not use the Linnaean binomial system but prefers the older, discredited method of using a string of descriptive Latin terms. However the Swedish botanist's influence is evident in the character of the illustration. The Linnaean system depended on the flower and an enumeration of the stamens and pistils, and their relation to one another. Thus Ehret has chosen to show only the flower-spike, ignoring the rest of the plant; the flowers themselves are painted in almost 'trompe l'oeil' detail, from every angle, and in bud and full bloom. It is thus perfectly possible to classify this plant without ever seeing the thing itself.

In addition to the plant's descriptive name, Ehret includes a lengthy Latin description about the plant and the circumstances in which he studied it. He notes that 'this lily first flowered in August 1738, in the garden of Peter Collinson', an avid collector of new plants. It is not clear precisely when this finished portrait was made; this version is undated, but a near identicl plate which appeared at Christie's in 1994 is signed and dated 1745. Ehret often made copies of his more successful compositions, as commissions or gifts. One version of this was certainly sent to C.J. Trew, who published it in 'Plantae Selectae' (1750-73).

Exhibition History

Picturing Plants: masterpieces of botanical illustration (Victoria and Albert Museum, Galleries 88a and 90 05/02/2011-25/09/2011)

Labels and date

Georg Dionysius Ehret 1708-70
American Turk's-cap Lily ('Lilium superbum')
1740s

The Linnaean system depended on the flower and an enumeration of the stamens and pistils. Ehret has thus chosen to show only the flower-spike, ignoring the rest of the plant. He has painted it in almost 'trompe l'oeil' detail, from every angle, in bud and in full bloom. It is thus possible to classify the lily from the illustration alone.

Probably London
Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum
V&A: D.589-1886

Subjects depicted

Flowers

Categories

Illustration; Science; Gardens & Gardening

Collection code

PDP

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Qr_O88258
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