During the Enlightenment, the painter and botanist Pierre-Joseph Redouté was the favourite artist of the Parisian ‘beau monde’. Queen Marie-Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI of France, engaged him to paint her plants and named him ‘painter of the nation’.

When Napoleon seized power, his wife Joséphine Bonaparte turned out to have the same love of flower paintings. In 1802, she had Redouté draw all the flowers in the garden of her château Malmaison in Paris.

The result was dozens of illustrations that decorated the walls of Joséphine’s red bedroom as well as the pages of the art book ‘Les Liliacées’.

One of these illustrations is of me. Redouté has drawn me in extraordinary detail. As a botanist he knew all about my growth and structure.

First he sketched my brown, walnut-like bulb, then my white stem, and finally my delicate lilac flower petals, both open and closed.

Alongside me he also drew my dark green upright leaves, forming a kind of bundle, which are absent when I bloom. So he drew me in all my guises – nice for the viewer, and important for botanical science.