Pierre-Joseph Redouté is arguably the most renowned floral illustrator in history. He painted plants in the Royal gardens of Paris using a technique of applying color to etchings by hand. His etchings were vibrant and detailed and attracted the attention of some influential patrons. Redouté even managed to attract the attention of Queen Marie Antoinette who selected Redouté to decorate the walls of her small palace.
Arguably, Redouté’s most famous patron was Empress Josephine, Napolean Bonaparte’s first wife. In 1798, Empress Josephine purchased the Château de la Malmaison while Napolean was away (at great expense). Rumor has it Napolean wasn’t all too pleased with his wife’s purchase, but apparently, Empress Josephine didn’t care. Instead, she set out to create a garden unlike any other in Europe.
During Josephine’s day, the garden at Malmaison had over 250 varieties of plants and 200 types of roses. An astounding figure even by today’s standards. Pierre-Joseph Redouté was invited to paint the plants in the gardens at Malmaison, immortalizing the garden for history.
Josephine was so impressed with Redouté’s talent, that she soon named him the “Painter to the Empress”. One of his most famous works was Les Roses, a collection of images of his favorite flower, the rose. Working on Les Roses allowed Redouté to visit Malmaison often.
Les Roses was published in 3 volumes between 1817 and 1824. The book contains an image of the rose “Souvenir de la Malmaison”, a rose still grown today which commemorates Josephine’s garden and the island of Martinique where she was born.
Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s painting of the rose Souvenir de la Malmaison (pictured below) is an incredible botanical print. The painting is so realistic and detailed, it is easy to understand why he became the “Painter to the Empress”.
Below you can see an actual photograph of the rose Malmaison for comparison.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Empress Josephine understood the importance of capturing quality images to immortalize her garden. I’m certain if she was alive today, she’d be posting pictures of her garden on Instagram. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a few more examples of Redouté’s botanical prints.