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Pierre Joseph Redouté
Les Liliacées

Paris: Chez l'Auteur. De l'Imprimerie de Didot jeune, 1802-16
Academy of Natural Sciences

On display at PACSCL's 1988 exhibition, Legacies of Genius: A Celebration of Philadelphia Libraries and illustrated in the exhibition catalog.

From the catalog entry:

The most celebrated flower painter of his day, indeed one of the most popular in the history of botanical art, Pierre Joseph Redouté was called the "Raphaël des fleurs." He served as a court painter to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and survived the Revolution into the Bonaparte era. The original watercolors for Les Liliacées, painted on vellum, that had belonged to the Empress Josephine realized $5,000,000 at auction in 1986. Under the patronage of Josephine, the work in its published form with 488 color printed stipple engravings was issued over a period of fourteen years in eighty installments making up eight volumes.

In his preliminary discourse Redouté, who was artist, editor, and his own publisher, announced that he had chosen the lily family for its variety of forms and promised that "the brilliant series will be drawn, engraved, and colored with all the fidelity that science can desire, and, which is more difficult, with the luxury of detail with which nature has embellished them." In fact, not only the lily family is represented but selected members of the amaryllis, iris, and orchid families. A masterpiece of illustration, botanically and aesthetically, resulted. Redouté followed Les Liliacées with the three-volume Les Roses, 1817-24, perhaps more delicate but not so colorful.

The Academy's copy of Les Liliacées was bequeathed to it by its former president, William Maclure, in 1835. It was part of his library of some 4,000 books brought back to Philadelphia after his death from the utopian community at New Harmony, Indiana, which he had helped to found and where he for a while lived. Another copy of Les Liliacées, surprisingly enough, came to the Pennsylvania Hospital from the collection of Dr. Benjamin Smith Barton, "the father of American botany." The Library Company has three volumes of it. Examples of Les Roses are not only in the Academy's collection, but also at Bryn Mawr.

View other images from the Academy of Natural Sciences


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