Sculpture en Ivoire

Originally a lawyer, Jules Labarte (1797-1880) turned into an archaeologist by looking after the enormous collection accumulated by his father-in-law, Louis-Fidel Debruge-Dumesnil, particularly the mediaeval and Renaissance pieces. In 1847 he compiled a catalogue containing few illustrations but a substantial historical introduction that made the book a success. The second edition, planned immediately after, finally grew into an entirely new magnum opus of four volumes plus two volumes of illustrations, published in 1864-1866. The one hundred and fifty plates of the Histoire des arts industriels au Moyen Âge et àa l’epoque de la Renaissance were produced with the utmost care and precision, first and foremost by assigning an essential function to photography. An elaborate process made it possible to combine the advantages of photography with those of the most sophisticated techniques of manual reproduction, above all for the color plates. A new edition, published in 1872-1875, was aimed at a wider audience and the number of plates was reduced to eighty-one, twelve of them redone by means of the latest technique, photogravure. The book thus afforded an anthology of the illustration techniques of its time; the circumstances of its production and the opinions expressed by contemporary critics shed light on the technical and theoretical problems that had to be dealt with in substituting photography for the hand and eye of the artist. This makes this work not only a great editorial achievement, but also a landmark in the development of art history as a science. [1]


[1] Aubenas Sylvie, Smith Marc H. La naissance de l’illustration photographique dans le livre d’art : Jules Labarte et l’Histoire des arts industriels (1847-1875). In: Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes. 2000, tome 158, livraison 1. pp. 169-196.

Addleman-Frankel, Kate, Saskia Asser, and Édouard Baldus. After Photography?: The Photogravures of Édouard Baldus Reconsidered. , 2018. fig. 28 (from later edition)

Hanson, David A. Checklist of Photomechanical Processes and Printing, 1825-1910. , 2017. p. 111.