Category Archives: Rose Exhibit

Redouté Knickknacks


Pierre-Joseph Redouté is called the Raphael of flower painters but one thing is certain you can still see his art every where you look.  Reprints of his paintings decorate walls, note cards with his images give thanks and deliver get well messages, tea cups with Redouté roses decorate a luncheon table, Redouté calendars keep us up to date, and his images sell rose scented cosmetics.

In fact it’s hard to escape his illustrations even now more than 180 years after the publication of Les Roses! To help impress this idea into the minds of exhibit visitors we came up with the idea of presenting modern objects with his images in a case we called the Ubiquitous Redouté.

Over the months of the planning stage I and others collected household objects with Redouté images at discount stores like TJ Max, Marshals, and Ross.  Over time we discovered a tea cup here, and a set of boxed note cards there.  One factor in this collecting is that I refused to spend more than $4.95 for any one thing, call me cheap but I have standards.

Jane Tsong (our show designer) discovered a set of inexpensive (cheap) cosmetics at one place and and over a number of months we built up quite a collection of knickknacks.  After price our other criteria was these objects should have a recognizable Redouté image prominently displayed.  So quite often when faced with a Victorian rose pattern china, even a quite lovely one, I had to force myself to reject it.

Jacqueline Dugas, the Art Division Registrar for art exhibits, and known on campus for her love of maroon fabrics, noticed our growing collection and asked about it.  She then volunteered to sew a pillow with a fabric printed with a Redouté image she had collected and donate it to the exhibit.  Her husband only insisted that she not bring it home after the show!

Myriam Hu who helped us with the fragrance displays, had visited Bulgaria a few years back and there had purchased a jar of rose scented face cream with a heavenly perfume.  You could even smell it through the case during the show.

We added two modern reprints of Les Roses to the case just for effect and Jane did an artful display of the various objects which did seem to catch the eye of our visitors.

At one point during one of the many openings for our member groups a very stylish lady confronted me an politely demanded that The Huntington Bookstore sell a squarish shaped coffee cup in the display. Unfortunately I had to inform her that I had purchased the cup in question recently at Marshals, a store I doubt she frequented, and that as well as I could recall they were sold out of them.  She took the news well enough but expressed her disappointment that she could not enjoy her daily cup of café au lait in such a cup!

Redouté who suffered under financial difficulties in his later life would no doubt have enjoyed the income from his work unfortunately artistic rights don’t extend quite that far back.  And I think his patron Joséphine would get quite a chuckle over the range of influence her court flower painter still holds sway today.



Filed under Rose Exhibit

La Rose Impériale

Maybe this is telling the story backwards, but my first exhibit La Rose Impériale:  The Development of Modern Roses came down last week after a three month run in the the Boone Gallery.  The exhibit was a huge part of my life from the planning stage and final installation in January through all the special tours and dismantling in late April.

Pictured above are our Rose Docents after touring the exhibit as part of their continuing education program. These dedicated volunteers daily greet visitors, answer questions, take photographs, and provide that missing human touch when visitors tour the gardens on their own.

The biggest shock was watching my “words of wisdom” being scraped off the wall and landing in random piles on the floor!  It isn’t easy on an author to see his words wadded up in a sticky ball.

Visitors were curious about how we produced the large wall panels like this “Genealogy of a Rose” chart outlining the ancestry of ‘Double Delight.’  The text panels were printed on self-adhesive vinyl strips and applied like wallpaper.  An effective and artistic way to present visual messages to visitors.  Jane Tsong, the show designer, designed the panels and matched the background colors to the paint she had selected for the walls by taking a light bulb from the Boone and comparing the color samples in a booth at the printers.

From the beginning when I started thinking about the exhibit I was concerned that we would be just displaying dusty old books in dusty cases.  The visual panels were a great way to set the stage for the books.  Jane and I developed ideas to present the story and bring visitors into the story including engaging them with scent and touch.

The books, like this second edition of John Gerard’s The Herball, or General Historie of Plants printed in 1633 with hand-colored illustrations, have been returned to the vault.  One fact that surprised visitors was that all the books in the exhibit were from The Huntington Library’s collections.  We did not borrow books, partially because we did not have the budget for loans and mainly because I wanted to demonstrate the depth of our library collections. The great majority of the books on display had not been exhibited in the 25 years I have been at The Huntington.  It was a great honor being asked to curate the exhibit and seeing visitors enjoy our efforts was equally gratifying.  

Now that the books are safely back in the vault it looks like the exhibit may have an extended life.  The Huntington has asked me to write a book on the exhibit and the rose garden centennial and the exhibit may travel to the Chicago Botanic Garden next summer.  They have made an informal request and are now looking into the practicalities of moving the exhibit to their institution. 



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Filed under Rose Exhibit