Ann Lee

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Ann Lee
approximately 1753-1790
Mellittis Melissophyllum
Opaque watercolor over graphite on vellum; framing line in graphite.
11 5/16 x 7 13/16 inches (288 x 199 mm)

Part of a group originally assembled by Margaret Cavendish Harley Bentinck (1715-1785), Duchess of Portland, wife of William, 2nd Duke of Portland. Widowed for over twenty years and extremely wealthy, the duchess devoted herself to the study of natural history, accumulating a vast collection of both foreign and domestic specimens that she referred to as the Portland Museum. This is one of 108 drawings of ferns, flowers, and fungi by Georg Dionysius Ehret and others at the Morgan Library. The set inlcludes seventy-three by Ehret (1978.8:1-73); fourteen by James Bolton (1978.9:1-14); ten possibly by William Lewin (1978.10:1-10); two by R. Alves Rebello (1978.11:1-2); one by Lady Frances Howard (1978.12); one by Ann Lee (1978.13); seven by anonymous artists(1978.14:1-7).
Ann Lee was born to a family of Scottish botanists and horticulturalists. James Lee, her father, ran a successful nursery in the Hammersmith area of London, introducing many foreign species to English cultivation. Admired for his encyclopedic knowledge of plants, James communicated with renowned naturalists of his day, including Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the famed Swedish botanist and zoologist. While some of the Lee children worked in the family business, Ann, the youngest daughter, received an early and rigorous training in the art of botanical illustration. In this drawing, she confidently and accurately renders the plant's delicate serpentine stem, coarsely toothed leaves, and white blooms accented with distinctive purple lips.


Inscribed at lower center, in pen and black ink: "MELITTIS Melissophyllum. Linn:"; signed and dated at lower right, in pen and black ink: "Ann Lee March 25th. 1771."

Margaret Cavendish Harley Bentinck, Duchess of Portland, Bulstrode, England; her sale, London, Portland Museum, Skinner, 24 April 1786 ff. (to Walker); Mrs. Elizabeth Walker; by descent to John Walker Ford; H.P. Kraus, New York.
Associated names: 

Portland, Margaret Cavendish Holles Harley Bentinck, Duchess of, 1715-1785, former owner.
Walker, Elizabeth, former owner.
Ford, John Walker, former owner.
Kraus, Hans Peter, 1907-1988, former owner.


Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Nineteenth Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1978-1980. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1981, p. 178-188, 210.

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