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Botanical Prints

REDOUTÉ Pierre-Joseph (1759-1840), Tuberose/Polianthahes Tuberosa, Plate 147, (Paris: Chez l'auteur, de l'imprimerie de Didot Jeune, 1802 - 1816)

REDOUTÉ Pierre-Joseph (1759-1840), Tuberose/Polianthahes Tuberosa, Plate 147, (Paris: Chez l'auteur, de l'imprimerie de Didot Jeune, 1802 - 1816)


REDOUTÉ Pierre-Joseph (1759-1840), Tuberose/Polianthahes Tuberosa, Plate 147,   (Paris: Chez l'auteur, de l'imprimerie de Didot Jeune, 1802 - 1816)


A fine stipple engraving with original hand color and full margins

from the folio edition of “Les Liliacées” by Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759 - 1840)

21 x 14 inches sheet. Fine stipple-engraved plate in colors. L’imprimerie de Didot Jeune. Paris, 1802 - 1816. Annotation with names in French on lower half; legend below identifying P.J. Redouté as painter and Langlois as engraver (tiny tears along right and lower left edge, toning consistent with age).

The present stipple engraving comes with full margins, a rare sight in existing Redoute works today. This engraving provides a true-to-life portraiture of the Tuberose, a plant beloved for the intensely rich and sultry fragrance of its flowers. The origin of this night-blooming plant can be traced to a few corners of the world. Most believe it is from Mexico, and arose from its wild form, Polianthes gracilis. Scholar Brian Mathew proposes that this flower may have been introduced by the Spanish into Mexico during their early explorations of the region. Other accounts indicate that the Tuberose may have been imported into Europe from the East, where it had been grown for centuries for its alluring scent (Mathew, 114).

The present composition shows a single-form tuberose floating elegantly in space, without background or setting. The regal simplicity of the composition allows the viewer to focus without distraction on the delicate complexity of the plant itself. The gorgeous details of this plant are meticulously rendered. The main life-size illustration is accompanied by Redouté’s small anatomical drawing placed below, which shows the flower’s pistil as well as the flower opened out to show stamens. These small drawings enable the flower to be identified with precision and cultivated to perfection.

The unequalled botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté occupies a central position in the development of European flower painting. Dubbed the “Raphael of flowers,” he produced over 2,100 published plates depicting more than 1,800 flower species over the course of his career, many of which had never been represented before. Redouté had, as pupils or patrons, five queens and empresses of France, from Marie-Antoinette to Empress Josephine and her successor, Marie Louise. Despite many changes of regime in a turbulent epoch, he managed to work without interruption, a testament to his enduring appeal as an artist. His work represents a uniquely harmonious blend of scientific precision and supremely delicate rendering that has never been surpassed.

The eight-volumed “Les Liliacées” is perhaps Redouté’s most celebrated work, which he issued while under the patronage of the Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon. This collection of 486 plates records the plants of the Lily family, and related flowers, that Josephine collected and cultivated in her magnificent gardens at Malmaison. Likely no more than 220 copies were produced (Brian Mathew, 8).

The luminosity of stipple engraving, a technique perfected by Redouté, is particularly suited to the reproduction of botanical detail. The medium involved engraving a copper plate with a dense grid of dots that could be modulated to convey delicate gradations of color. The edges of the leaves and petals were dotted as well so  as to achieve softness of form. Because the ink rested on the paper in miniscule dots, it did not obscure the “light” of the paper beneath the color. After this complex printing process was complete, the prints were finished by hand in watercolor, so as to conform to the exquisite models Redouté provided.

Reference: Brian Mathew, “P.J. Redouté: Lilies and Related Flowers,” (London: 1981).

You are warmly invited to visit our gallery at 1016 Madison Avenue in New York City to view this work whenever it might be convenient.

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