Le départ des volontaires (State 2) Nègre, Charles  (French, 1820-1880)

One of five successive “essais” test prints from the etching of the Le Départ pate that appeared in the December 23, 1854 issue of La Lumière. Nègre notes that ‘Plate 5’ was made after the La Lumière press run of 1,000 impressions. The plates are the provenance of Nègre’s estate via gallerist Alain Paviot.

While 1853 marked the introduction of processes by Talbot and Niépce de Saint-Victor, 1854 was a landmark year for the spread of experimentation with photomechanical printing in France, a phenomenon followed with intense interest by writers of the journal La Lumière. Nègre commenced experimentation in photogravure after following accounts published in La Lumière and Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académiedes sciences. In 1853, Nègre read both mémoires of Niépce deSaint-Victor and Talbot which were presented to the Académie des Sciences and subsequently published within a month of each other. Dissuaded by Talbot’s patent protection in France, Nègre primarily experimented with Niépce de Saint-Victor’s method, and modified the process as a result of research into various kinds of photosensitive materials and acid-resistant varnishes, hand-written accounts of which he preserved in his notebooks.

With this early attention to photomechanical printing, Nègre described his success in photogravure in a communication read aloud to the Académie des Sciences on December 18, 1854, an account of which was published in La Lumière on December 23. Printed with this article is Nègre’s view of François Rude’s relief Le Départ, known colloquially as La Marseillaise from the Arc de Triomphe which accompanied an article on Nègre’s process by Ernest Lacan.

Reproduced / Exhibited

La Lumière, December 23, 1854


Borcoman, James, and Charles Nègre. Charles Nègre. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada for the National Museums of Canada, 1976.

La Lumière: Revue De La Photographie: Beaux-Arts, Heliographie, Sciences. Paris, 1851.

Lewis, Jacob W. Charles Nègre in Pursuit of the Photographic, 2012.

Photography in Print : From the Photogravure to the Photobook, Bernard Quaritch ltd, Catalogue 1394.