Etienne-Pierre Ventenat (1757-1808) and the gardens of Cels and Empress Joséphine.
The intensive geographical exploration of the world, starting in the mid eighteenth century, resulted in the discovery of numerous plant species new to science of which many were subsequently introduced into cultivation in Europe. Etienne-Pierre Ventenat (1757-1808) contributed widely to this process. After the end of his curatorial and teaching commitments at Sainte-Geneviève Abbey in Paris he became an active botanist following in the footprints of his mentor Charles Louis L'Héritier de Brutelle (1746-1800). Ventenat was attracted by a trend of his period: publishing magnificent botanical books splendidly illustrated. He published three flower books from 1800 to 1808 on exotic plants recently brought to France from all over the world by various expeditions. Two flower books describe plants cultivated by Jacques-Martin Cels (1740-1806), an influential horticulturist who had built one of the most impressive plant collections of his period at Montrouge, just outside Paris. Another plant lover was Empress Joséphine (1763-1814). After her wedding with Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), she bought in 1799 the splendid estate of Malmaison west of Paris. There the Empress assembled a remarkable collection of exotic plants, largely cultivated in her orangery and the "Grande Serre Chaude". She engaged Ventenat to describe her luxurious collection and the artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1761-1841), later known as the "Raphaël des fleurs", to depict the plants. This resulted in the famous flower book Jardin de la Malmaison, a masterpiece of botanical illustration. Ventenat, exhausted, passed away in 1808. His personal herbarium was bought in 1809 by Benjamin Delessert (1773-1847) whose herbarium was later donated to the City of Geneva in 1869. In his three flower books Ventenat treated a total of 343 plant names. A search in the herbaria of Geneva, Paris, Berlin and Madrid resulted in the finding of nearly all the original material relative to these names. A comprehensive list of names is provided here with comments on the origin of the plant material in the context of the explorations of this period, as well as information on typification and currently accepted names. In his three flower books Ventenat validated the names of 208 taxa (207 species and one variety) new to science : of these 67 are still accepted today as published while 52 are basionyms of names currently placed in another genera. Of these 208 names, lectotypification was not needed for 116 and the holotype has been found in G. For the remaining 92 names, 21 previous lectotypifications have been published but 5 of them needed a second-step lectotypification; 70 new lectotypes have been selected and one neotype. Further comments on the typification of ten species are also provided.