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Portrait d’un jeune homme Fizeau, Louis Armand Hippolyte  (French, 1819-1896)

One of the earliest examples in France of a portrait on paper. [1]

At the dawn of the invention of photography, scientists began exploring and exploiting the somewhat earth-shattering announcement of the daguerreotype. The greatest scientific minds in France and Britain made it their mission to convert what was, at that point, a fascinating but impractical phenomenon into a powerful and profitable one. Alfred Donné of Paris and Josef Berres of Vienna were among the first to meet limited success showing prints from etched Daguerreotypes in 1839 and 1840, respectively. Their results from simple etching, however, while ground breaking, lacked halftone. By far the most successful process for transforming daguerreotypes into intaglio plates was that developed by Hippolyte-Louis Fizeau (1819–1896). While his early examples also were weak in halftone, they exhibited acuity and detail approaching the daguerreotype. He called them ‘Heliogravure.’

Despite their precision, they remained far from the magical surface and seemingly infinite detail of the daguerreotype plate and they seemed arbitrary and inelegant when compared the work of classical engravers. With the rise of Talbot’s calotype and its reproducibility, Fizeau’s process ultimately proved a dead end. Though clearly capable of fine results, it was too complex to be readily practicable, and few of his experimental prints survive. Portrait d’un jeune homme is one of them.

"The furniture in the background of the image is that of the studio of optician Lerebours, identifying him as the author of the image as well as the maker of the plaque. Lerebours was probably the first person in France to open a public studio, taking about 1,500 portraits in 1841.

Provenance: Pierre Lambert – Collection Marie-Therèse and André Jammes (Sotheby’s 2002)

Reproduced / Exhibited

Jammes André Kunsthaus Zürich Musée Nicéphore Niépce and Musée de l’Elysée (Lausanne Switzerland). 1982. De Niépce À Stieglitz : La Photographie En Taille-Douce : 19 Novembre 1982-20 Février 1983. Lausanne: Musée de l’Elysée. No. 4

Crawford, William. The Keepers of Light. Dobbs Ferry: Morgan and Morgan, 1979. fig. 185

La Photographie II Collection Marie-Thérese et André Jammes Paris 21 March 2002 Lot 49

Raymond Lécuyer, Histoire de la photographic* Paris, 1945, P- 248.


[1] Primitive Photography. New York: Aperture, 1969. No. 159

Gernsheim, Helmut. The Origins of Photography. London: Thames and Hudson, 1982.