Pierre-Joseph Redouté, Pl. 262 Dwarf Bearded Iris, Les Liliacées,  1802–16, stipple engraving

Laura Oppenheimer

Pierre-Joseph Redouté Pl. 262 Dwarf Bearded Iris, Les Liliacées, 1802–16, stipple engraving

Enjoy significant savings on a superb hand-colored stipple engraving,Plate 262 Dwarf Bearded Iris, Iris Pumila floribus coeruleis, Iris Naine à fleures bleues, from Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s renowned monograph, Les Liliacées (1802–16).  Redouté depicts this variety of dwarf bearded iris, a well-known garden favorite in a precise and elegant composition.

Redouté provides a general description for the dwarf iris (this excerpt is translated from French): "The dwarf Iris and the numerous varieties it presents are easily recognized among the other species of the same group, their small stature, their broad sword-shaped leaves, and especially their uniflorous stem, always shorter than the leaves. This species is so well known. that we think it useless to give here the description. We will confine ourselves to saying that it is wrong that most modern botanists have considered as one of its characteristics to have the tube of the flower longer than the spathe. Often, on the contrary, it is shorter and is entirely enveloped."

Comprising 503 plates in eight folio volumes, only 200 copies of Les Liliacées were produced, appearing in 80 parts from 1802 to 1816. Josephine Bonaparte’s support made the work possible, herself ordering several sets.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 this plate.   

Stipple engraving finished by hand with exceptional à la poupée color. P. J. Redouté pinx.; Langlois sculp. In perfect condition, folio size, 13.5 x 20.5 inches.


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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 eighteenth-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“. Napoleon divorced Josephine in 1809, and she died in 1814. In the absence of Josephine’s patronage, Redouté’s fortunes began to decline. Somewhat impoverished, he died in 1840, suffering a stroke.

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

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