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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
  • Enlarge image

American Turk's-cap lily (Lilium superbum)

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (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:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case TOPIC, shelf DP2

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.

Physical description

Watercolour drawing

Place of Origin

London (probably, painted)


1740s (painted)


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

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and bodycolour on vellum


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
'Picturing Plants: an analytical history of botanical illustration'; Gill Saunders; KWS Publishers; 2009; no. 60; page 87

Labels and date

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

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 []




Watercolour drawing

Subjects depicted



Illustration; Gardens & Gardening; Science


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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