Pierre-Joseph Redoute, Pl. 435, Spanish Bluebell, Les Liliacees

David Oppenheimer

Pierre-Joseph Redouté, Pl. 435, Spanish Bluebell, Les Liliacées, 1802–16, stipple engraving finished by hand

This week only, enjoy special pricing on Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s superb stipple engraving, Pl. 435, Spanish Bluebell, Scilla Campanulata, Scille à fleurs en cloche, from his great work, Les Liliacées (1802–16).

In the accompanying text description for this bulbous perennial, Redouté states that “it blooms in May in the garden of the Museum of Natural History and gives fruit in July.” Regarding the history of the plant, he notes that It was introduced in Holland in 1605, where it was cultivated and that the renowned Belgian botanist Charles de l'Ecluse or Carolus Clusius (1526–1609) “reports that this plant was found in Spain”. Hence, this variety of the genus Hyacinthoides is also referred to as Hyacinthus hispanica.

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine took note of the plant in Volume 50, 1823, remarking, “Though cultivated by Philip Miller [chief gardener of the Chelsea Physic Garden 1722–71] in 1759, it is still a very rare plant. Native to Spain and Italy. Flowers in May and June. Communicated by Mr. Anderson, curator of the Apothecaries’ botanic garden, Chelsea.”

Exceptional à la poupée color finished by hand. In pristine condition. Large folio size.

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About Pierre Joseph Redouté

Considered to be a French artist, Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759–1840) was born in the village of Saint-Hubert, now a part of Belgium. The descendant of a long line of painters, he received his first training as an artist from his father, Charles Joseph Redouté (1715–76). At the age of 13, he left Saint-Hubert to make a living as an itinerant painter and decorator. During this period he studied the old masters, and in particular, was influenced by the work of the 18th-century Dutch flower painter, Jan van Huysum. In 1782, his elder brother, Antoine Ferdinand Redouté (1756–1809), a highly regarded decorative artist, invited him to join him in Paris as a stage-set designer. There, in his spare time, he began sketching rare plants at the Jardin du Roi (now the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle). There, his artistic talent came to the attention of the Linnaean botanist Charles Louis L’Héritier and Gerard van Spaëndonck, Royal Professor of Painting, and they became Redouté’s mentors. Gerard van Spaëndonck developed the watercolor technique that Redouté later popularized.

In 1786, Redouté spent a brief period in England where he was introduced to the stipple-engraving technique. Employed at that time primarily for portraiture, it is a process of incising minute depressions in a copper plate forming a field of dots rather than lines. Stipple engraving is sublimely suited to conveying the subtle tonal gradations of watercolors. Redouté, who is credited with perfecting this technique said, “The process which we invented in 1796 for color printing consists in the employment of these colors on a single plate…. We have thereby softness and brilliance of a watercolor.” The dynamic realism he achieved surpassed all previous attempts at color botanical printmaking. In recognition of this valuable contribution, Redouté was awarded a medal by Louis XVIII.

On the eve of the French Revolution, Redouté was named to the position of Draftsman to the Cabinet of Marie Antoinette. Remarkably, he not only survived the Revolution, but attracted the patronage of Josephine Bonaparte in a seamless transition from the royal court to the French Republic. In 1798, Josephine Bonaparte acquired a grand estate, Malmaison, and began to fill its gardens with the rarest plants that the old and new worlds could furnish. Redouté flourished under Josephine’s reign.

In 1798, Josephine Bonaparte acquired a grand estate, Malmaison, and began to fill its gardens with the rarest plants that the old and new worlds could furnish. Redouté flourished under Josephine’s reign, publishing during this period the monumental Les Liliacées (1802-1816), naming the most dramatic plate after his benefactress, the “Amaryllis Josephinae“.

Only 200 copies of Les Liliacées were engraved, appearing in 80 parts from 1802 to 1816. Josephine’s support made the work possible, herself ordering several sets. Napoleon divorced Josephine in 1809, and she died in 1814. In the absence of Josephine’s patronage, Redouté’s fortunes began to decline. Suffering a stroke, he died in 1840.

Les Liliacées, when found in this quality, are absolutely breathtaking. The flawless bone-white paper in this folio allows the brilliance of color and nuance of tonality to shine through. It is not possible to overstate the beauty of these images.

For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.

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