Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759 – 1840) - The "Raphael of Flowers"

Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759 – 1840),was a painter and botanist from Belgium, known for his watercolours of roses, lilies and other flowers. He has been called the greatest botanical illustrator of all time, and nicknamed  "the Raphael of flowers".

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. Because the ink rested on the paper in miniscule dots, it did not obscure the "light" of the paper beneath the color. After this complicated printing process was complete, the prints were finished by hand in watercolor, so as to conform to the exquisite models Redouté provided.

Redouté collaborated with the greatest botanists of his day and participated in nearly fifty publications depicting both the familiar flowers of the French court and plants from places as distant as Japan, America, South Africa, and Australia. He worked from live plants rather than herbarium specimens, which contributed to his fresh, subtle renderings. He produced over 2,100 published plates depicting over 1,800 different species, many never rendered before.

Redouté was an official court artist of Marie Antoinette, and continued painting through the French Revolution and Reign of Terror. He combined great artistic skills with a pleasing, ingratiating personality which endeared him with his influential patrons. After Queen Marie-Antoinette, they included both of Napoleon's wives -- Empress Joséphine and Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma -- as well as Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily wife of Louis Philippe I, the last king of France.

His work remains very valued and sought after today. In 2010 at a Sotheby auction of some of his watercolours, the most expensive sale went for 250’000 sterling pounds (400’000 CHF then).

A perfumer present at the auction commented “if sunshine had a smell, that would be it” while commenting the piece (a dusky pink autumn damask rose).


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