Recently, we were fortunate enough to secure a breaker copy of Johann Weinmann’s Phytanthoza Iconographia, 1737-1745. These rare and beautiful prints represent one of the most outstanding and innovative achievements in botanical illustration. The engraver, J.J. Haid printed many of the illustrations utilizing a new mezzotint technique pioneered by the Englishman, Kirkall, to produce 1,025 hand colored engravings.
Johann Weinmann directed a famous pharmacy in Regensburg. The Phytanthoza Iconographia was his masterpiece, a huge work in eight folio volumes which provided one of the most comprehensive botanical references of the eighteenth century. Great Flower Books describes it as a “pioneering work of botanical prints” and it remains today one of the most ambitious works ever undertaken, displaying over 4,000 species. Particularly magnificent are the tulips, iris, exotic palms and pineapples, cactus, fruit & vegetables.
The artist for the much of the work was the gifted Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770). Born of a humble family in Heidelberg, Ehret was taught to draw by his father at an early age. As a young man, he worked as a gardener first for the Elector of Heidelburg and then the Margrave of Badaen-Durlach.
The Margrave had an elaborate botanical garden, particularly renowned for its 5,000 varieties of tulips and 800 varieties of hyacinths. Here Ehret painted these splendid flowers in his leisure time. The favoritism he was shown because of his artistic talents resulted in serious discord amongst the staff & he finally resigned his position, much to the regret of the Margrave.
While working as an oarsman on the Danube, he met Johann Wilhelm Weinmann, who hired him to draw for Phytanthoza Iconographia. During the first year he produced 500 drawings for which Weinmann paid him only a fraction of the small sum agreed on, claiming Ehret should have produced 1,000 drawings during this time.
Ehret left, becoming one of the foremost botanical artists of his day, collaborating with the wealthy physician & botanist, Jakob Trew, Linnaeus, Philip Miller and many others.