Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840) was the most celebrated of all flower painters and illustrators, combining botanical accuracy and talented artistry. He numbered among his patrons four royal ladies of France, including Marie Antoinette and the Empress Joséphine.
Les Roses is Redouté's most famous work, which was published in parts. Chatsworth's is one of only five special copies, which contains two separate impressions of the printed plates: one with the plates printed in colour and finished by hand, and the other printed uncoloured on brown paper. The technique perfected by Redouté and his team of engravers was to print the illustrations in colour from stipple-engraved plates, working from the original watercolour paintings he made on vellum.
The technique of stipple-engraving creates extremely delicate gradations of tone, rendered by tiny dots rather than lines or cross-hatching. All the main colours were meticulously dabbed onto a single plate before each impression was taken. The resulting colour print was then finished off by hand, usually by Redouté himself.
Les Roses was acquired for the Library at Chatsworth by Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, and bears his armorial bookplate.