A further inscription in Latin reads 'Hoe Lilium primo floruit Mense Augusto 1738 in Horto Curioso D.Petri Collinson Botanophili egregii, ubi ipfum delineavi. Excreverat in altitudinem sax pedum cum dimidio, Caule pereleganti, purpureo, Coniformi, a basi ima ad verticem usque/
Circumcirca folia emittente. Planta hai, quantum seio, neodum deforipta, neo deli= neata est. Natale solum ejus est Pensil= vania, ut mihi indicavit Celeberrimus Gronovius, qui et rogatus positam de= Scriptionem Concefsit.'
George Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770) was born in Heidelberg on 30 January 1708. The son of a gardener, he began his career in the same profession as apprentice to his uncle. He had learned to draw from his father and, after a period at Karlsruhe and with the Margrave of Baden-Durbach, he set off for Vienna in 1728, stopping at Regensburg where he got his first commissions as a botanical illustrator. Through an introduction to Dr. Christophe Trew in November, he reached a wider public. After travelling through Switzerland and France 1733-5 he arrived in London where he was encouraged by Sir Hans Sloane and Philip Miller, curator of the Chelsea Physick Garden. In 1736 he went on a crucial visit to Holland, meeting Linneaus, whose insistence on scientific accuracy was reflected in his own illustrations to Linnaeus's Hortus Cliffortianus, published in 1737.
Ehret returned to England in 1736, remaining there until he died on 9 September 1770. He worked with Sloane and Miller, and also with Dr. Richard Mead, Joseph Banks and Sir William Watson. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1757 and of the German Academy of Naturalists the following year; the latter required him to write an account of his life which has become an important source of information. In 1750 he returned to practical gardening at the Botanical Garden in Oxford, but left after a quarrel the following year. He also taught flower-painting to aristocratic young ladies; these included the daughters of the Duchess of Portland through whom he may indirectly have influenced the botanical ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and, through him, the work of Pierre-Joseph Redouté.
An important group of early illustrations, mostly of 1732, was brought back from Germany by the 13th Earl of Derby. Ehret's most important published illustrations were to his own Plantae et Papiliones Rariores, 1748-62, and to Dr. Trew's Plantae Selectae, 1750-73, and Hortus Nitidissimus, 1750-92.
A group of eight watercolours of flowers by Ehret were sold in these Rooms 9 July 1991, lots 45-52, the watercolour of a magnolia, lot 45 realised #65,000