A Stag Beetle

Pierre Joseph Redouté French

Not on view

Redouté’s stag beetle looks like it has just crawled onto this drawing’s animal-skin support, thanks to the artist’s subtle use of shadow and his attentiveness to minute anatomical details. The borders that frame this insect, as well as its placement at the center of the composition, however, suggest its status as a specimen. Best known for his depictions of flowers, Redouté worked for noteworthy figures like France’s Queen Marie Antoinette and, later, Empress Joséphine Bonaparte. His works bear witness to an increasing interest in empiricist knowledge of the natural world that was ushered in during the Enlightenment period, when documentation and categorization of natural-history specimens reached a pinnacle. This drawing is one among more than six thousand watercolors that Redouté created over the course of his career.

A Stag Beetle, Pierre Joseph Redouté (French, 1759–1840), Watercolor heightened with white on vellum

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