Important ensemble de dessin botanique
Signature : " Gueroult du Pas ad vivum delinavit ".
Numerous inscriptions on the front and back of each leaf including the names in Latin and French of each species represented.
Presence of wetness and rodent work on some leaves.
Generally recognized for his captivating work devoted mainly to the navy, Pierre-Jacob Guéroult du Pas also dealt with other subjects as shown by this exceptional set of drawings representing various plants. Of notable scope and profound originality, this collection, composed of 402 leaves, significantly enriches the artist's corpus and places him in a new field, that of botanical illustration.
These plant representations, made "Ad vivum", are not only graphic works but also scientific documents. All the drawings are annotated and sometimes even corrected, cut out or completed by skilful collages. As Madeleine Pinault Sorensen points out, this type of work is "not a simple work of copying reality, but (...) an analytical approach that is just as necessary as the botanist's text in order to arrive at a complete description of the plant". Pierre-Jacob Guéroult du Pas uses several botanical nomenclatures, including those of Gaspard Bauhin and Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, to precisely designate the subjects of his works. The use of the Hortus Cliffortianus also leads us to propose a closer dating of this graphic ensemble, between 1737, the year of publication of Linnaeus' work, and 1740, the supposed date of the artist's death.
Pierre-Jacob Guéroult du Pas opted for a work in grey wash to represent the different specimens he drew. In addition, he embellishes some of his compositions with various animals and thus follows an aesthetic reminiscent of that adopted by Maria Sibylla Merian. It is possible to see a bird perched on a Phalaris major semine albo or snails on a cultivated Chicory. Butterflies, a grasshopper and various other insects also populate the leaves drawn by the artist.
A manuscript kept at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris allows us to learn more about Pierre-Jacob Guéroult du Pas' relationship with botanical illustration. Coming from the library of Antoine de Jussieu, this archive is a "List of plants drawn in natural size by P.-J. Guéroult du Pas, former engineer in Alençon. 1740 ". The document specifies that he drew with a pen for each of his compositions "a plant demonstrated by the different attitudes of the detached figures, by sections and geometrical developments". The artist wishes to have his botanical representations interpreted and distributed in engravings. His work will be "as useful as pleasant" to the public and will also serve as a model for painters and designers of flower and fruit decorations. The set drawn by Guéroult having never been reproduced on another support, he hopes that with the help of "skilful engravers", of a prestigious protector and under the scientific direction of Jussieu, his project could be finalized in the form of a collection and be widely distributed in order to do "honor to the French nation among foreigners". This archival piece thus establishes a certain link of proximity between the artist and the famous scientist. Further research remains to be done in order to clarify its nature. Similarly, the role played by the botanist in the creation of the 402 leaves drawn by Guéroult is a promising avenue to explore. Entirely unpublished, this imposing set now places the artist in the great history of botanical illustration alongside figures such as Claude Aubriet, Jean Joubert, Madeleine Basseporte and Maria Sibylla Merian.
Indicative bibliography :
Louise Audelin, Les Jussieu, une dynastie de botanistes au XVIIIe siècle, 1680-1789, thèse de l'Ecole des Chartes, Paris, Ecole des Chartes, 1987, 2 vols, 584 p.
Wilfrid Blunt and William T. Stearn, The art of botanical illustration, Woodbridge, ACC art books, 2015, 367 pp.
Gunnar Broberg, Carl von Linnaeus, Stockholm, Swedish Institute, 2008, 43 pp.
Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity, Dijon, les Presses du réel, 2012, 581 pp.
Benoît Dayrat, Les botanistes et la flore de France : trois siècles de découvertes, Paris, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, 2003, 690 p.Aline Hamonou-Mahieu, Claude Aubriet : artiste naturaliste des Lumières, Paris, CTHS, 2010, 217 p.
Claus Nissen, Die botanische Buchillustration, ihre Geschichte und Bibliographie, Stuttgart, Hierseman Verlags-Ges. 1951. 2 vols.
Anne Pavord, The naming of names : the search for order in the world of plants, London, Bloomsbury, 2005, 471 p.
Madeleine Pinault Sørensen, Le livre de botanique : XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2008, 255 p.
Sabine van Sprang (ed.), L'empire de flore : histoire et représentation des fleurs en Europe du XVIe au XIXe siècle, Brussels, La Renaissance du livre, 1996, 367 p.
Mary Terrall, Catching nature in the act : Réaumur and the practice of natural history in the eighteenth century, Chicago, University of Chicago press, 2014, 275 p.
Christine Velut, La rose et l'orchidée : les usages sociaux et symboliques des fleurs à Paris au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Larousse, 1993, 293 p.
Nathalie Vuillemin, Les beautés de la nature à l'épreuve de l'analyse : programmes scientifiques et tentations esthétiques dans l'histoire naturelle du XVIIIe siècle (1744-1805), Paris, Presses Sorbonne nouvelle, 2009, 412 p.
 See Nathalie Vuillemin, Les beautés de la nature à l'épreuve de l'analyse : programmes scientifiques et tentations esthétiques dans l'histoire naturelle du XVIIIe siècle (1744-1805), Paris, Presses Sorbonne nouvelle, 2009, 412 p.
 Madeleine Pinault Sørensen, Le livre de botanique : XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2008, p. 79.
 On this subject see Anne Pavord, The naming of names : the search for order in the world of plants, London, Bloomsbury, 2005, 471 p.
 Gunnar Broberg, Carl von Linné, Stockholm, Swedish Institute, 2008, 43 p.
 Anonymous, "List of plants drawn in natural size by P.-J. Guéroult du Pas, former engineer in Alençon. 1740", six leaves, Paris, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Ms 228.