Redouté Roses Pl. 55, French Rose "Versicolor"
Original Antique Print
14 1/4" x 10 5/8" (approximate)
Hand-colored stipple engraving
Comprising 169 images, Les Roses was published in 30 parts between 1817 and 1824 and enjoyed immediate success. Redouté, masterfully employed stipple engraving to depict the translucency of the flower petals and portrait-like individuality of each leaf and flower. The intensity of inking and subtlety of coloring all contribute to engravings of unrivaled beauty.
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 was first trained by his artist father, Charles Joseph Redouté (1715—76). At the age of 15 he left to make a living as an itinerant painter and decorator. In 1782, his elder brother, Antoine Ferdinand Redouté (1756—1809), a highly regarded decorative artist, invited him to join him in Paris. There he began sketching rare plants at the Jardin du Roi. At the Jardin du Roi (now the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle), his artwork was noticed by the Linnaean botanist Charles Louis L’Héritier and Gerard van Spaëndonck, Royal Professor of Painting. Redouté became L’Héritier and van Spaëndonck’s most gifted pupil. Gerard van Spaëndonck is recognized for developing the watercolor technique that Pierre-Joseph Redouté later popularized.
In 1786, Pierre-Joseph 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. Pierre-Joseph 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, Pierre-Joseph Redouté was awarded a medal by Louis XVIII.
On the eve of the French Revolution, Pierre-Joseph 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. Many of the examples depicted in Les Roses are from Josephine Bonaparte’s gardens at Malmaison, as well as from other significant gardens of that time.
References: Sacheverell Sitwell, Great Flower Books, 1700—1900, page 128, 1990.
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