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Pale Garlic, allium palens Plate 272
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Pale Garlic, allium palens, study for Plate 272\nPierre-Joseph Redouté (1759 - 1840).\nAn original watercolor for Les Liliacées.\nWatercolors on vellum.\nCompleted c. 1802 - 1816.\nSigned P. J. Redoute.\nVellum size: 14 1/4 x 18 3/4 inches\nProvenance: Acquired from the artist by the Empress Joséphine; Prince Eugène de Beauharnais; by descent through the Dukes of Leuchtenberg; Bibliothèque Eugène de Beauharnais; Braus-Riggenbach and Ulrico Hoepli sale, Zurich, 23 May 1935 (Lot 82); Erhard Wehye; Private trust; Sotheby’s sale, New York, 20 November, 1985; and W. Graham Arader III.Literature: Peter & Frances Mallary, A Redouté Treasury: 468 Watercolors from Les Liliacées of Pierre-Joseph Redouté, New York, 1986; William P. Watson, “Il Raffaello dei fiori” in KOS (March, 1986), 3:10-23.\nPierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840) is unquestionably the best-known botanical illustrator of any era. His work seems to demand the invention of lofty praise. A critic, writing of the 1804 Salon exhibition, noted that Redouté’s “six paintings of flowers executed in watercolor for H. M. the empress ... are realistic and beautifully painted, ... perfectly imitating nature.” He concluded, “The delicacy, exactitude, and elegance of the brushwork gives them great merit.” Vivant Denon, Director of Museums under the Empire, stated that Redouté’s gouaches were “masterpieces,” and the artist was similarly described both as the “Rembrandt” and the “Raphael” of flowers by nineteenth-century writers. It is thus unsurprising that Redouté occupies a central position in the development of European floral art, contributing to both the artistry and scientific advancement of botanical study.\nWhat remains remarkable about Redouté’s watercolors for Les Liliacées is that they have remained clean and fresh, particularly when it is considered that they were used as models by the engravers and the colorists. It is likely that extra care was taken because their ultimate destination was the collection of the Empress Joséphine. It is also probable that the mirror system used by the engraver to transfer the image also aided in their salvation from exposure to dirty thumbprints or paint splashes. Unlike other engraved publications which show the artist’s original studies in reverse, Redouté insisted that each plant be reproduced exactly as he saw it. Thus, the engraver’s studio was equipped with an elaborate system of mirrors, to permit each craftsman to view the artist’s drawing in reverse. The technique had the added advantage of separating the vellum from continuous workshop handling.
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Art, European, French, Paper, Watercolor


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