Brame et Lorenceau will include this work in their forthcoming Fantin-Latour catalogue raisonné des peintures et pastels.
Fantin-Latour painted all varieties of flowers, often mixing them in a single composition, but it was his paintings of roses alone, or those in which roses dominate the arrangement, which were especially prized in England, where Fantin developed the most steady and reliable market for his flower paintings. Roses were the rage in Victorian England, which surpassed France to become the world's leader in rose cultivation. A rosarium constructed in Abner Park Cemetery, northeast London, in 1840 possessed a collection numbering more than one thousand cultivars, varieties and species, and attracted visitors from around the world. A newly-bred variety of the Old Centifolia rose, still available today, was named the "Fantin-Latour."
The rose is the supreme test of a flower-painter's skill: the artist needs to impart a convincing sense of roundness and weight to the densely layered blossoms of the most complex varieties—the tea rose, noisette and hybrid perpetuals (the latter developed by the Victorians)—while at the same time suggesting the lightness and delicacy of the individual petals. The painter Jacques-Emile Blanche wrote:
"It is in his roses that Fantin has no equal. The rose—so complicated in its design, contours and colour, in its rolls and curls, now fluted the decoration of a fashionable hat, round and smooth, now like a button or a woman's breast—no one understood them better than Fantin. He confers a kind of nobility on the rose, which so many watercolourists have rendered insipid and insignificant by their bits of colouring on vellum, screens, and fans. He bathes it in light and air, uncovering with the point of his scraper the canvas...beneath layers of colour, so creating these interstices through which the painting breathes...He captures the physiognomy of the flower he is copying; it is that particular flower and not another on the same stem: he draws and constructs the flower, and does not satisfy himself with giving an impression of it through bright, cleverly juxtaposed splashes of colour" ("Fantin-Latour," Revue de Paris, 15 May 1906, pp. 311-312).
Marcel Proust, in his novel Temps retrouvé, the final volume of his monumental A la recherche du temps perdu, described his fictional painter Elstir as "the artist who is cited by connoisseurs today as our leading flower-painter, superior to even Fantin-Latour" (A. Mayor and T. Kilmartin, trans., The Past Regained, London, 1981, p. 34). Writing some twenty years after Fantin's death, Proust was secure in the knowledge that Fantin's reputation was such that even his readers among a later generation would know of the painter's fame—and, as time would prove, many more down to the present day.