This exquisite folio stipple engraving is from Pierre Joseph Redoute’s Les Liliacees. The work was published in Paris between 1802 and 1816. Each engraving features original hand-coloring and is on woven, watermarked paper.
Les Liliacees was completed by Redoute while under the patronage of Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon. The work is often considered Redoute’s masterpiece. It was his largest and most ambitious work, representing not only lilies as the title suggests, but images of iris, orchids, amaryllis, and other botanical groups. The images were drawn from Empress Josephine’s gardens at Malmaison.
Redoute’s name is synonymous with beauty and in the world of botanical art he is known as the best. His fame is due in large part to his diligent effort to perfect the use of stipple engraving. This labor intensive, and therefore expensive, technique creates subtle yet stunning variations of color making it superior to the engraving alone.
Stippling is an etching process that employs dots instead of lines to form the image, which is then color printed by applying colored inks directly to the copper plate for each impression. The use of colored inks, greens and browns to print the stems and leaves, and reds and pinks to print the flowers, create a more luminous print by eliminating the necessity to paint watercolor over a back inked image.
Redoute was renowned for his artistic ability and tutored such people as Queen Marie-Antoinette, Empress Josephine, Marie-Louise, and Queen Marie-Amelie. Redoute influenced a breadth of artists that followed him including Turpin, Poiteau, Bessa, and Prevost. Redoute is widely considered the finest botanical illustrator of the early 19th century, if not throughout history. He was often referred to as the “Raphael of Flowers” because of his exquisite compositional sense and clarity of vision. More than with any other painter, one sees in Redouté’s flowers living, breathing beings at their most beautiful moment.