Botany and Art Commingle at Paris’s Musée de la Vie Romantique
Currently on display at the Musée de la Vie Romantique in Paris is “Le pouvoir des fleurs,” a showcase of the work of floral painter Pierre-Joseph Redouté, nicknamed the “Raphael of Flowers”. The exhibit is the first in France dedicated exclusively to Rédouté and his influence, and will remain on display until October 2017.
Well-loved by his contemporaries, Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s work was praised and requested by everyone from Marie Antoinette and Empress Joséphine to Queen Maria Amalia. Redouté worked alongside the great Naturalists between the end of the Ancien Régime and the July Monarchy, at a time when the nobility was just developing a new passion for botany, gardening, and the “Language of Flowers”. As a result, the demand for botanical illustrations surpassed all else, and today the Museum of the Romantics has a fine collection of 250 botanically-minded works to feature alongside Redouté’s originals.
Nestled away in Paris near the original Moulin Rouge, the Museum of the Romantics is itself a lavish experience, opening onto a peaceful flower-filled courtyard worthy of French royalty. Inside, science and art intertwine, celebrating the golden age of botanical art. Redouté’s watercolors on vellum have an infinite grace: the old-fashioned colors, the subtle execution, the precision and simplicity, the detail of a dew drop– all these realer-than-life elements, laid out on a large sheet, show how science and poetry can be one and the same. This artistic alchemy, as rare as it is exquisite, permeates depictions of lilies, white hibiscus, hollyhocks, oriental poppies, cacti, and bunches of fruit.
On the upper level, Redouté’s influence is felt in the choice of the objects on display. Decorated with flowers and fruit, an imposing “egg” vase from the Sèvre porcelain factory seems proud to have rubbed shoulders with Louis XVIII at the Louvre. Opposite, refined dishes, delicate fans in carved horn, a small pair of boots, bouquet holders, wall hangings, and embroidery all testify to the great enthusiasm for the floral motifs of the era.
Framed by the Museum of the Romantics, the exhibition brings imagination into blossom, showcasing the strength, finesse, and fragility of nature up close. The art is as enjoyable as it is intuitive, reminding us why nature has always had such an enduring appeal.