Honoré d’Albert, duc de Luynes, an enlightened patron of the arts, was an archaeologist, a painter, and a photographer. The duke inherited enormous wealth and spent his life on scientific, archeological, and artistic pursuits. Perhaps motivated by his own project exploring the Dead Sea, the duke launched a competition with the Societe Française de Photographie to stimulate research into solving the challenges facing the successful reproduction of photographs. The contest sparked competition for patents and, in the long run, slowed progress. We can attribute the plethora of complex names ascribed to similar photomechanical processes to the pursuit of the competition’s prize. While many artists and inventors submitted their work for consideration, after several delays, only three were found particularly worthy of note: Charles Nègre, Paul Pretsch, and Alphonse Poitevin. Poitevin ultimately won because his process was easily adaptable to the industrial application of photography to book publication.
Although Nègre did not win, Luynes still selected him in 1865 to reproduce photographs for the project that represented his life’s work, Voyage d’Exploration a la Mer Morte à Petra et sur la Rive Gauche du Jourdain, a folio volume of photographs to accompany the publication of his 1864 expedition to the Dead Sea basin and interior of Jordan. Perhaps this was a consolation prize, as Nègre was paid 23,250 francs – three times the prize amount of the competition.