Empress Eugenie Mayer Frères  (French, 1805-1870)

Beginning in 1853, Niépce de Saint-Victor and the engraver Francois-Augustin Lemaître worked to improve aspects of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s heliographic technique. The collaborative effort successfully yielded an improved technique that for the first time, allowed photographs to be translated into a printing plate. Their two principal refinements were making the bitumen of Judea more sensitive and adding an aquatint texture to hold the ink in large areas of tone. The process, however, produced images which were mostly unable to render delicacy of detail without the aid of extensive hand work. While it was clearly a photomechanical breakthrough, Niépce de Saint-Victor’s method did not last for very long, in particular because the process always required the intervention of an engraver. Its merit was that it was a pioneering method and opened the way to newer methods.

Examples of Niépce St. Victor’s Heliographs are rare.

The daughter of a Spanish noble who fought on the French side during Napoleon I’s Peninsular War in Spain, Eugénie went to Paris when Louis-Napoléon became president of the Second Republic in December 1848. They were married in January 1853 after he had become the emperor Napoleon III. This Heliograph was presented as a set with a matching portrait of Napoleon III.

Reproduced / Exhibited

Raymond Lecuyer, Histoire de la Photographie, Baschet et Cie, Paris, 1945, Pg 249

Vers 1870, Musee Nicephore Niepce, Chalon-Sur-Saone, 1980, item 160, simliar image by Mayer Freres

David Hanson, Checklist of Photomechanical Processes and Printing 1825-1910, 2017, pg 97


Cosmos : revue encyclopédique hebdomadaire des progrès des sciences et de leurs applications aux arts et à l’industrie, Bureaux du Cosmos, Paris, 1852 p. 274

Jammes, André, De Nieìpce A Stieglitz: La Photographie En Taille-Douce : [exposition], 19 Novembre 1982-20 Feìvrier 1983, Museìe De L’elyseìe, Lausanne. Lausanne: Le Museìe, 1982 no. 28

De Andere Fotografie de Geschiedenis van de Fotomechanische Reproductie in de Negentiende Eeuw: tentoonstelling in het Zeeuws Museum Middelburg 1989 (The Other Photography the History of Photomechanical Reproduction in the Nineteenth Century: Exhibition in the Zeeuws Museum Middelburg 1989) Exhibited chk. 21

McCauley, Elizabeth Anne, AAE Disdéri and the business card portrait photograph, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.