Preparatory for Mordant de Launay’s Herbier général de l'amateur
Very little is known about Pancrace Bessa’s earliest training; however, he is recorded as one of the few private students of Pierre-Joseph Redouté, whose work is also represented in this exhibition. After completing his training, Bessa went on to collaborate with Redouté on numerous projects. He also availed himself of his master’s connections to the aristocracy, gaining, among others, the patronage of the Duchess of Berry, whose family he served as a painting tutor. The association proved to be most fruitful when Bessa was commissioned by King Charles X, father-in-law to the duchess, to illustrate the Herbier général de l'amateur, the most important horticultural publication of the time.
Initially authored by Jean-Claude-MichelMordant de Launay, the Herbier général illustrated and described many of the new plants, yet to be published, that could be grown in French gardens. Bessa provided 572 watercolors on vellum, which were then engraved and colored by other hands for inclusion in the eight-volume study, issued between 1816 and 1827. The hyacinth on view here, engraved by Pierre-François Barrois (b. 1778), appeared as plate 366 in volume six of the Herbier général, published in 1822.