Saturday, April 25, 2009

Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World

Mark Catesby
From Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands
London, 1731-43

Science, which is beautiful in various and sometimes unexpected ways, has an unsurpassed power to bring about change. Often, scientific work has been accompanied by an alchemical mixture of creativity and logic, making art a likely and suitable affiliate. Indeed, art is part of the rich tapestry of expressing the history of science.

We highly recommend visiting the Huntington Library in Pasadena to see a wonderful permanent exhibition focusing on the magnificence of scientific discovery. The Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World exhibit examines ideas from the history of science with respect to astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light. Through books, manuscripts, and objects, the exhibit highlights numerous ground breaking discoveries. For example, viewers will find Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, a publication which illustrates his observations of animals and plants in their natural environment in the eighteenth century. Similarly, Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium is also on display, which documented many tropical species from Suriname for the first time in the late seventeenth century. These are two of several examples on display in this exhibit which demonstrate the exciting Age of Discovery.

Arader Galleries is not only pleased to offer selections from both of the influential and groundbreaking works by Catesby and Merian, but many other significant artists who also sought to understand and organize the living world. Our material visually illustrates how the wonder, curiosity, and discovery of artists like Catesby and Merian enriched the understanding of the natural world for contemporary as well as current audiences.

We encourage you to stop by the gallery at 435 Jackson Street to experience the beauty of these exceptional and historically important works of art. Please visit or call 415.788.5115 for more information.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Superb Engravings from Risso & Poiteau’s Histoire Naturelle des Orangers

The magnificence Pierre Joseph Redouté brought to the art of rose and lily illustration was equaled by his pupil, Pierre Antoine Poiteau, in the splendid engravings of oranges, lemons and grapefruit presented in the Histoire Naturelle des Orangers. This spectacular publication has long been admired by botanical art connoisseurs and was singled out by Wilfrid Blunt for providing “a Hesperidean holiday among the orange and citrus groves.” He went on to state that this beautiful and inspiring work is in no way inferior to Redouté’s Les Liliacées or Les Roses and given the opportunity Poiteau might have enjoyed the same renown as his master.

However, among those who studied under Redouté, Poiteau is perhaps one of the most successful. Born at Ambleny, near Soissons, his skill in botanical illustration was undoubtedly helped by an apprenticeship at the Paris Jardin des Plantes where he was singled out by Thouin and trained as a botanist. He went on to found the Bergerac botanical garden and later traveled to San Domingo to collect plant specimens.

Poiteau’s watercolor technique was learned from Redouté and it is likely that the master also influenced the choice of stipple engraving in the production of the plates for the Histoire Naturelle des Orangers. Redouté used this process in the creation of his own Les Liliacées and Les Roses and was thus able to give his illustrations a softness and graduation of tone previously unachievable in botanical engraving and also witnessed in Poiteau’s images.

Orangeries began to appear in European gardens during the seventeenth century and their popularity continued for several centuries. They quickly became a favorite area for strolling no doubt due to the plants exotic and sweet-smelling aroma. However, the orangeries were also the location for the creation of new citrus cultivars and Poiteau’s text beautifully illustrates not only the wide selection of strangely shaped fruits from around the world, but also new citrus varieties. The foliage, exterior and interior of each fruit is exquisitely displayed and each golden orb glows upon the sheet. The images are testaments to the amazing advances in scientific investigation and yet also provide the observer with aesthetically beautiful and accomplished depictions.

The Histoire Naturelle des Orangers was dedicated to the Duchesse de Berry and its vibrant illustrations can be considered glowing masterpieces of French botanical illustration, completed during the period in which France excelled in the field.

These extraordinary hand-colored stipple engravings are currently on display at Arader Galleries' 435 Jackson Street, San Francisco location. For more information, please visit or call 415.788.5115.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Magnificent Etching of a Roman Column by Piranesi

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) and Francesco Piranesi (1758-1810)
Veduta del Prospetto principale della Colonna Antonina (Front view of the column of Marcus Aurelius)
From Trofeo o Sia Magnifica Colonna Coclide or The Trophy or Magnificent Spiral Column of Marble
Rome: 1774-79
Etching, mounted on 20th century wove paper
112 ½" x 26 ½"

Giovanni Battista Piranesi was an Italian etcher, draughtsman and architect best known for his monumental volume Vedute di Roma. A lifelong champion of Rome, Piranesi published more than a thousand etchings depicting the 18th century city and ancient Roman monuments. Piranesi’s images were thought to be so magnificent that travelers visiting Rome on their grand tours were left disappointed by the actual city.

This engraving, printed on six sheets, is from the series Trofeo o Sia Magnifica Colonna Coclide, dedicated solely to the illustration of Trajan’s column and the column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome. This series is thought to be from the last phase of Piranesi’s career, when a number of works in progress were finished with assistance from his son, Francesco. The column depicts the story of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Danubian wars, waged by him from 166 to his death, and the column itself is thought to date to the year 193.

This magnificent engraving is currently on display at our new location at 432 Jackson St., San Francisco and is available for purchase. Please contact Arader Galleries at 415.788.5115 for additional information.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The International Year of Astrology

Andreas Cellarius
From Harmonia Macrocosmica
Amsterdam: 1708

This year commemorates the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of a telescope to study the skies and Kepler's publication of Astronomia Nova. With the quadricentennial of modern astronomy upon us, Arader Galleries celebrates the numerous astronomical and scientific milestones by highlighting a particular celestial cartographer or work of art each month. Indeed, the history of astronomy can be traced through its imagery—particularly through the development of celestial maps. This month, we highlight the extraordinary work of Andreas Cellarius.

Science and art come together in celestial maps to an effort to shape a rational image of the heavens. Andreas Cellarius’s Atlas Coelestis seu Harmonia Macrocosmica, published in Amsterdam in 1708, in one of the most historically and artistically important manifestations of such an effort. Certainly, in addition to their lavish aesthetic appeal, the celestial charts of Andreas Cellarius comprise the most sweeping, ambitious project in the history of celestial cartography, one which also illustrates the historical tensions of the time. In his distinctive visual language, Cellarius portrayed the often conflicting theories that prevailed. In addition to the relatively obscure notions of Tycho Brahe and Schiller, Cellarius’s charts track the theories of Ptolemy, dating from the 2nd century AD, and Copernicus’s 16th-century challenge to the venerable ancient astronomer.

Cellarius’ project was not devoid of political motivation. Up to his time of artistic activity, the Netherlands had been the unquestioned center of scientific discovery, and Dutch mapmakers had reigned supreme above all others. In the early 18th century, Louis XV of France sought to bring his country to the forefront of science, and by association, to imply political dominance. His efforts led to a great competition between France and the Netherlands, and Cellarius’ sweeping project was an attempt to thwart French attempts completely. In some cases, Cellarius incorporated French elements into his maps, like acanthus leaves which can be seen often on French furniture of the period. By attempting to use French visual elements more skillfully than they themselves could, Cellarius implied the Netherlands’ artistic superiority. Consequently, Cellarius’ work remains a landmark of the Golden Age of Exploration, combining great artistic beauty with scientific documentation. The vibrant hues, spanning the color spectrum, give amazing animation to the images, and the skies appear to come alive with bright figures.

Of all the sciences, the history of astronomy is the most resonant with a sense of mystery and intellectual excitement. We believe that maps and other images of the heavens succeed in some degree in conveying that resonance. We invite you to stop by the gallery at 432 Jackson Street to see our magnificent collection of Celarius prints or call 415.788.5115 to request a catalog.

Please check back next month as Arader Galleries will be presenting the extraordinary masterpiece Uranometria by Johann Bayer.