REDOUTÉ, Pierre-Joseph (1759-1840)
Rosa Centifolia mutabilis. Rosier unique.
Paris: Firmin Didot, 1817-1824. Stipple engraving, printed in colours and finished by hand, engraved by Bessin, a large paper copy. Sheet size: 19 1/2 x 13 5/8 inches.
More than with any other painter, Redouté's flowers are alive, and always shown at the ephemeral moment of their greatest beauty.
Pierre-Joseph Redouté was one of the world's great flower painters. Born into a family that had been painters for at least two generations, Redouté went to Paris in 1782 with his brother where they worked as scene painters for the Théâtre Italien. Redouté painted flowers in his spare time. The search for subjects led him to the Jardin du Roi and eventually to Gerard van Spaendonck who made him an assistant. While at the Jardin du Roi, Redouté came to know Charles-Louis L'Heritier, an amateur botanist and writer of independent means. He gave Redouté a full-time job as an illustrator, instructing him in plant anatomy. Redouté's scientific understanding of plants contributed greatly to the clarity of his depictions. But it was Redouté's work in stipple engraving and colour printing that was to be of the greatest importance. Stippling and the application of two or three colour inks to one plate were engraving innovations that Redouté brought to French printmaking, and these were brought to perfection in Les Roses from which this work comes.
Redouté together with Claude-Antoine Thory, an ardent botanist and collector of roses, have together in Les Roses produced a work not only of great artistic merit, but also an invaluable scientific record as well. `Redouté and Thory knew, described and figured almost all the important roses known in their day. Included were many of the key ancestors of our present-day roses. The plates in Les Roses have artistic value, botanical and documentary value, both for the species and cultivars still surviving and for those that have disappeared' (Gisele de la Roche). The roses used as specimens for the work were taken from the collections of Thory, the Malmaison gardens, and from other collections around Paris. Many of the flowers were novelties in Redouté's time, and a number were dedicated to the memory of his friends and acquaintances, such as l'Héritier de Brutelle and Ventenat.
Cf. Cleveland Collections 807; cf. Dunthorne p 232; cf. Hunt, Redoutéana 19; Hunt, Printmaking in the Service of Botany 25; Nissen BBI 1599; Pritzel 7455; Ray, French 89; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 8747.