Pierre Joseph Redouté

10 July 1759 – 19 June 1840

Greatest ever floral artist

Pierre-Joseph Redouté was born in 1759 in an area near northern France.

Inspired by some of the greatest religious painters who ever lived, such as Michaelangelo and Raphael, young Redoute embarked on a career in religious art by painting various churches throughout Northern Europe.

Blessed with the lineage of accomplished artists, he grew up developing exceptional artistic talent. He is unquestionably the best-known botanical illustrator of any era and the reputation is due, in no small part, to the exceptional quality of his prints.

The most accomplished engravers of the period were engaged to translate his original paintings into stipple engravings, in which the plates are etched with small dots rather than lines.

Indeed, Redouté helped refine the stipple engraving process to best capture the subtle effects, luminosity, sheen and dimensionality of his original paintings.

Through a method he invented in 1796, the colors were applied to the engraved plate “à la poupée” before each printing, “giving to our prints all the softness and brilliance of a watercolor,” as Redouté noted.

Finally, each print was finished with additional coloring by hand. Redouté’s high standards are evident in the striking way in which the resulting prints capture the subtle delicacy of flower petals and foliage.

Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s Roses are perhaps his most celebrated images, which the artist issued while under the patronage of the Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon.

The present selection comprises the three images that are often considered the most magnificent roses that Redouté ever painted and engraved.  Certain common themes run through them.  In each, the flowers are classical “portraits” which lack backgrounds or settings.  

The regal simplicity of the compositions allows the viewer to focus without distraction on the beauty and delicate complexity of the plants themselves.

Perhaps better than any other engravings that the artist ever made, these images demonstrate the flawless and pristine French style of botanical art that Redouté pioneered and brought to a pinnacle of quality.

These magnificent engravings demonstrate the full mastery of his abilities, as the forms of the roses are set off dramatically by Redouté’s masterful and rich modulations of tone and hue.

‘Les Roses’ was published in 3 volumes between 1817 and 1824 and the 170 illustrations depict mostly flowers from the Malmaison estate of Empress Josephine. The deluxe original editions were very limited in numbers and were financially unsuccessful. A later octavo version proved popular but only about 300 copies were ever printed. A single original print may fetch up to $18,000.

Many of the original watercolour paintings by Redouté (which he sold to reduce debt) were lost in the fire at Tuileries Palace in 1871. Our facsimiles are from the deluxe originals.