A fine stipple engraving with original hand color and full margins
from the folio edition of “Les Liliacées.”
21 x 14 inches sheet. Fine stipple-engraved plate in colors. L’imprimerie de Didot Jeune. Paris, 1802 - 1816. Annotation with names in French and Latin on lower half; legend below identifying P.J. Redouté as painter and Langlois as engraver (minor unevenness along right and bottom edges, toning consistent with age).
The present stipple engraving comes with full margins showing the page number in the upper right corner, a rare sight in existing Redouté works today. This engraving provides a true-to-life portraiture of the April Fool flower, also known as the Blood Flower, Blood Lily, or Paintbrush Lily. Its latin name Haemanthus Coccineus comes from the Greek terms haima (blood) and anthos (flower), and the latin word coccineus (red or scarlet). Its nickname “Paintbrush Lily” comes from the resemblance of its fine and numerous stamens to a shaving brush. This dazzling plant originates from Southern Africa, and can be commonly found in the winter rainfall regions of Southern Namibia, the Cape Peninsula, and the Keiskamma River. It is a resilient flower that is able to flourish in a variety of soils and altitudes, as well as survive heavy annual rainfall of up to 43 inches. This flower usually grows in the winter and spring, and goes dormant in the summer.
The present composition shows a single blood flower floating gracefully in space, accompanied by a separate portrait of the towering leaves of this same plant. The lack of background or setting here allows the viewer to focus without distraction on the delicate complexity of the plant itself. The spectacular beauty of the flower is rendered with painstaking detail. We see resplendent golden anthers emerge from a circle of overlapping scarlet-red petals. The intricate leopard-spot markings along the flower’s stem are visible down to each individual spot. Redouté also breathes life into the large, fleshy leaves of this plant (some of which can grow to as tall as 20 inches and as wide as 6 inches), endowing their monumental, tongue-shaped bodies with freshness and vigor.
The main life-size illustrations are accompanied by Redouté’s small drawings placed below, which show the plant’s individual anatomical parts and enable it 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.