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Drawing - Bull Bay
  • Bull Bay
    Ehret, Georg Dionysus, born 1708 - died 1770
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Bull Bay

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (painted)

  • Date:

    1743 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and gouache on vellum

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This is one of the many botanical illustrations by Ehret in the V&A collections. The Bull Bay (Magnolia grandiflora) was introduced to Europe from the southern United States. It flowered in Europe for the first time in the garden of Sir Charles Wager at Parson’s Green, near Fulham, a suburb of London. Ehret walked there every day from his home in Chelsea to draw the plant. He studied each stage of its unfolding and ‘drew every part of it in order to publish a perfect botanical study of it’.

The finished watercolour gives a very clear view of the structure of the flower. At the time this was thought to be the key to the classification of plants. The watercolour, though, is as much decorative as scientific. Ehret has not included detailed dissections of the separate parts of the flower and fruit.

Although Ehret worked closely with the great Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, he always favoured the pictorial rather than the diagrammatic style of botanical illustration. Here he has painted the seeds with shadows as if they were actually lying on the page. But the flower itself is represented according to the standard conventions of botanical illustration - that is, in silhouette against a white ground.

Physical description

Botanical study of a white magnolia flower, with leaf behind, centrally positioned and seed pod laid on its side to the bottom right, casting a shadow.

Place of Origin

London (painted)


1743 (painted)


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

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and gouache on vellum

Marks and inscriptions

G.D. Ehret. p. 1743
Signature; date; handwriting; ink, Centre right

MAGNOLIA altissima Laura-Cerassi folio, flore ingenti candido. cateso. / The Laurel-leaved Tulip-tree.
Ink, lower centre


Height: 53.2 cm, Width: 36.8 cm

Descriptive line

Botanical study of a Bull Bay (Magnolia grandiflora) by Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-70); watercolour and gouache on vellum; London; 1743

Labels and date

Georg Dionysius Ehret 1708-70
Bull Bay (Magnolia grandiflora L.)

This magnolia was introduced to Europe from the United States. It first flowered in Europe in the garden of Sir Charles Wager at Parson's Green. Ehret walked from his home in Chelsea to draw it, examining each stage of the unfolding flower to make 'a perfect botanical study'.

Watercolour and gouache on vellum
V&A: D.583-1886 [2011]

Subjects depicted

Flower; Magnolia graniflora; Plants


Gardens & Gardening; Science; Drawings; Illustration


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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