This folio, stipple engraving is from the first edition of Pierre Joseph Redoute’s Les Roses. The work was published in Paris by Firmin Didot between 1817 and 1824. The large paper rose engravings were believed to have only been printed perhaps 15 times and thus are quite impressive and noteworthy.
Redoute’s name is synonymous with beauty and in the world of botanical art he is known as the best. The work proved to be not only outstanding in terms of its beauty but also for its scientific merits. Many of the images were after Thory’s personal collection as well as the rose garden of the Empress Josephine’s garden at Malmaison. Redoute and Thory described almost all of the important roses that were known in their time. Lawalree describes the text as being ‘of outstanding importance to both botanists and horticulturalists.
Redoute’s 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. Each plate was created using the ‘a la poupee’ process in which the color was applied before the printing. Hand-finished coloring was painstakingly applied after printing.
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.
The process of stipple engraving and color printing give the Redoute Rose prints their luminous quality. 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.