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The Luxembourg Garden in Paris is hosting an exhibition of Pierre-Joseph Redouté watercolours of French grape varieties at the Davioud Pavilion from 1-4 September 2022. The exhibition is called Les Raisins de Redouté – The Grapes of Redouté.

A hundred watercolors of Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s French grape varieties were found at the Academy of Agriculture in Paris. They testify to the birth of a science of wines.

Belgium-born Redouté (1759-1840) had moved to Paris in 1782 at the age of 23, where he joined his older brother Antoine painting scenery for theatres. In Paris, he met several botanists who suggested a career in botanical drawings. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the French Minister of the Interior Jean-Antoine Chaptal asked Pierre-Joseph Redouté, known for his paintings of the roses of the Château de Malmaison, to represent all the French grape varieties gathered in a collection in the Luxembourg Garden. Redouté initially presented 83 watercolors of vine varieties on vellum (paper made from plant and tree fibres). 

Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s watercolours mark a highly symbolic date in the history of French viticulture: the beginnings of ampelography. At a time of renewed interest in indigenous grape varieties and the many questions posed by global warming, Redouté’s vellums testify to the past diversity in a country where 95% of wine production is now based on 40 varieties. 

In November 2021, his watercolours were published for the first time with an explanatory text by one of the greatest French ampelographers in France, Jean-Michel Boursiquot. Beyond the reproduction of these watercolour plates, it is the history of wine and the vine – or how France worried about the quality of wine from the nineteenth century. The book concludes with a scientific perspective on the future of the vine in the twenty-first century.

Photographer: Martina Nicolls

MARTINA NICOLLS – MartinaNicollsWebsite

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