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.
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.