A masterpiece of stipple engraving colored by Pierre-Joseph Redouté
Printed by Rémond after Redouté.
21 x 14 inches sheet, 31 x 24 inches framed. Fine stipple-engraved plate in colors.
L’imprimerie de Firmin Didot. Paris, 1817 - 1824. Annotation with title and description in French on lower half; legend below identifying P.J. Redouté as painter, Rémond as printer, and Langlois as engraver (fading consistent with age).
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.
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.
The present stipple engraving comes from one of only five copies of the large folio edition of “Les Roses,” and was hand colored by Redouté himself. “Les Rose” was a 3-volumed book of rose prints produced under the auspices of Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry, daughter-in-law of King Charles X, and published in 30 installments between 1817 and 1824. Notable in the collection are flowers from the Malmaison chateau gardens of former Empress Josephine--who assiduously collected and cultivated rare and beautiful roses from all over Europe--as well as from other horticulturists and botanists around Paris at the time (Hinz, 9).
The present work provides a true-to-life portraiture of a Tea Rose, or “Tea-scented China,” so named because its fragrance evokes Chinese black tea. These repeat-flowering roses were introduced to France from Asia in the 19th century, and typically feature abundantly large blooms that unfurl in spirals and petals that roll back around the outer edges, leaving a single petal with pointed tip--the archetype for today’s classic rose form.
In the present composition, the pale pink flower floats gracefully in space, without background or setting. The regal simplicity of this composition allows the viewer to focus without distraction on the beauty and delicate complexity of the plant itself. The leaves, buds, and thorns of the flower are also rendered vividly and endowed with an air of great vigor and elegance.
References: Petra-Andrea Hinz and Barbara Schulz, Pierre-Joseph Redouté: The Complete Plates (China: Taschen, 2007).
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.