Nov 6, 2009

Empress Josephine loved Roses

Although roses have been cultivated for many centuries, it was only in the latter part of the 18th century that the rose began to be cultivated for its bloom rather than simply for use in perfume or in medicinal extracts.
Josephine Bonaparte, who loved to create lavish landscapes and gardens at her homes in France, became entranced with the beauty of roses and obsessively collected every type. She managed to obtain many rare English hybrids, even when France was at war with England. She gave financial support to several exploratory expeditions in exchange for the promise of new cultivars for herself. The rose garden at her home at Malmaison was famous for its more than 250 types of roses. Cuttings and root stocks were generously sent to parks and towns throughout France, creating rose gardens in all parts of the republic that we can still enjoy today.
The general public in France closely followed everything done by Napoleon and by Josephine, even after their divorce. Josephine's rose garden created a huge demand for roses and for motifs using roses in porcelain, ceramic and in textiles.
(Click on any image to enlarge.) 
The three images immediately below are early to mid-19th century depictions of roses, done on glazed cotton. The first, on a pale blue-green background, depicts a large central bouquet of fresh roses mixed with other flowers. The second is a classic French pattern of delicate climbing roses that was reproduced in endless variations; this one is unusual with the color choice of red and faded tan. The third fabric uses a striated pale gray background with a foreground of gracefully climbing delicate baby roses. This particular motif reflects the popular oriental style that was influencing design in that era.
One of my favorites from that same era was the top of a quilt that I showed in a previous post. This lovely pattern in blue and dark brown uses intertwined roses, tassles, wreaths and coral sprigs:
The botanically correct rose was always popular and was very much favored for use in textile design. The next seven images are all French textiles from the second half of the 19th century. Some of these renderings depict roses so real one can almost smell them! My favorite is the first one below with what looks like a tea rose on a pale, pale yellow background, but all of these are exceptional in the details - the excellent engraving of the roller, the choice and subtlety of colors and the fine printing techniques.
Stylized interpretations of roses were also popular motifs during the second half of the 19th century - less realistic, but allowing more leeway in artistic interpretation:
The Art Nouveau period and the 1920s produced some interesting and very stylized representations of roses:
A next fabric, also from the Art Nouveau era, is one that I find to be rather schizophrenic. It uses a beautiful botanically correct motif of roses in a 19th century style but pairs it with stylized Art Nouveau semi-transparent white climbing flowers. A most unusual design!
During the 1920s, one begin to see more abstract and deconstructed motifs as well as the very streamlined Art Deco motifs inspired by the 1925 Paris show - Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The next four pictures illustrate a few of the wide variety of styles that emerged during that era.
The very stylized Art Deco rose from the 1920s has an orange and gray striped background.  Almost as an after-thought, it throws in a few tiny songbirds and birds of paradise as accents, seemingly to lure those who don't like the extreme modern decorative look:
And, a no-holds-barred beautiful Art Deco rose in a screen printed cotton from the era. Magnifique!
In the economically lean pre-war years of the late 1930s, printing was often simplified to save production costs. This was done by reducing the number of colors used or simplifying the overall intricacy of the design.
But, roses were still emminently popular:

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