Pierre-Joseph Redouté - Scientist of the Day

Pierre-Joseph Redouté, a Belgian artist, was born July 10, 1759. Redouté was one of the most skilled flower painters of his day, and he came to the notice of Josephine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s first wife, who had one of the most famous flower gardens of the time at her estate at Malmaison, just outside Paris. Redouté was called upon to paint these flowers, and the resulting publications are some of the most highly sought flora on the market. His book Les Roses (1817-24) is probably his best-known production; we do not have that work in the Library. But we do own his first book depicting Josephine’s flowers, Jardin de la Malmaison (1803-4), written by Etienne Ventenat, with exquisite plates by Redouté. Many of the plants in the garden, and in the book, were exotic species, brought back by French voyagers to Australia and the Far East, although the lovely Lavatera (first image) came only from Teneriffe in the Canary Islands, but it is found no other place in the world, and is very much endangered.

The images show Lavatera phoenicea, Cineraria cruenta (Pericallis), Nymphaea caerulea, (Blue Egyptian water lily), and Dionaea muscipula (Venus fly-trap)

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City