Painter to the Empress Josephine Bonaparte

by Susan on February 10, 2013

Pierre Joseph Redoute 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.

His talent got him noticed and he soon attracted the attention of Queen Marie Antoinette who selected Redoute to decorate the walls of her small palace.

Redoute’s most famous patron was Empress Josephine, Napolean Bonaparte’s first wife. In 1798, Josephine Bonaparte set out to create a garden unlike any other in Europe.  She built this garden at her country palace, the Chateau de Malmaison.

During Josephine’s day, the garden at Malmaison had over 250 varieties of plants and 200 types of roses. Josephine invited Pierre Joseph Redoute to paint pictures for Malmaison.

Chateau de Malmaison

This photo (courtesy of Wiki Commons) shows the front entrance to the Chateau de Malmaison.


Josephine was so impressed with Redoute’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. Working on Les Roses gave Redoute the opportunity 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.

rose souvenir de la malmaison

Photograph of the rose “Souvenir de la Malmaison” (photo by Lynn Hunt from an article in the Christian Science Monitor).

Rose Souvenir de la Malmaison

Pierre Joseph Redoute’s painting of the rose Souvenir de la Malmaison (pictured above) 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 are several images from Pierre Joseph Redoute’s famous work, Les Roses. I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do. I think they are simply amazing!

Rosa Centifolia

Rose Centifolia foliacia

Rosa gallica flore giganteo

Rosa gallica flore giganteo

Rosa Alba Regalis

Rosa Alba Regalis

Rosa Gallica pontiana

Rosa Gallica Pontiana

Rose Damascena Celsiana

Rose Damascena Celsiana

Rosa Sulfurea

Rosa Sulfurea

Rosa Indica Fragrans

Rosa Indica Fragrans


Dorothy Dennis February 18, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Hi, enjoyed your writings about Josephine and Pierre-Joseph. I have 2 prints by Pierre Redoute matted in 1944. I have searched the web for all of Redoute’s paintings, but have yet to find anything even remotely resembling the ones I have. They are signed R.J. Redoute. Can you suggest How I can find out about my prints. Should I take them to a museum? If you have any ideas, please respond. Thank you.

Susan February 22, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Hi Dorothy,
I sent you an email. Thanks for your kind words about the article. I have added that garden to my list of places to visit.

Velma McLean May 20, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Having re read Antonia Ridge’s book ‘The Man Who Painted Roses’ (1974) I welcomed the chance to visit your Website and see for myself exquisite pictures of the roses Pierre-Joseph Redoute (1759-1840) painted during turbulent Revolutions and Wars in France. I learned so much historically in tandem with the heart warming story of this unassuming gifted artist I want to register my good fortune in finding the book in a second hand market in a small New Zealand town I happened to be in,ten years ago.Briefly skimmed then, I returned to do it justice with tools for researching more,like your website .Thank you!

Susan May 21, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Hello Velma,
Thank you for visiting my website. I found the story of Pierre-Joseph Redoute totally fascinating too. And what a talented artist! I can understand why he was so popular in his day.

Karen September 16, 2013 at 6:43 pm

I have a painting of “Rosa Indica Fragrans” with the painter’s name being Paul Chez? It also has an official looking stamp on the front with the letter”B” on it. Does anyone know if this is worth anything?

Susan September 18, 2013 at 11:32 am

Hello Karen,
Sounds like a beautiful painting, but I’m afraid I have no idea about your question of worth. I bet it’s beautiful though.

Melissa February 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm

beautiful paintings and print images! wow! so pretty! 🙂 I really enjoyed reading about the history of these images as well!!:)

Susan February 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Hi Melissa,
Thanks for stopping in. I’m so glad to hear you liked the little history lesson. I love that kind of stuff.

sharon - my french country home February 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

The picture you chose to illustrate your post are just stunning Susan. I’ll keep my eye out for those books!

Susan February 11, 2013 at 11:25 pm

You’re awesome! Thanks so much Sharon.

Wife, Mother, Gardenerw February 10, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Beautiful, Susan! I do also love botanical paintings of roses. It was interesting to hear a bit of history surrounding these famous prints.

Susan February 10, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Thank you Julie!

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: