Conversation Pieces
A peep at Parisian nineteenth-century society

A fine ensemble of woodburytype photo portraits of Parisian intellectuals, journalists, artists and politicians dating from the traumatic but intellectually high-spirited years that elapsed between the fall of Napoléon III in 1870 and the establishment of the French Third Republic.

This remarkable series offers a glimpse into Parisian high society and includes portraits of individuals as well known as Victor Hugo, Gustave Eiffel, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Émile Zola, as well as figures better known in their own time, such as: Isaac Péreire who financed most of Haussmann’s redevelopment of Paris; Auguste Cain, a butcher turned animal sculptor; Karl Bodmer, whose lithographs depicting native Americans were instrumental in shaping European perceptions of the peoples of North America; and Albert Aublet, a painter used by Marcel Proust as a model for M. Biche, a regular of Madame Verdurin’s salon, in À la recherche du temps perdu. These woodburytype photo portraits, often made by the best photographers of the time such as Nadar and Etienne Carjat, were ordered from the Galerie Contemporaine, published periodically between 1870-80 and mounted with handwritten names. Often considered to be the most beautiful photography reproduction process, the woodburytype was one of the first successful photomechanical processes fully able to reproduce the delicate halftones of photographs. It is rare to find these woodburytype photographs in such good condition – these portraits were preserved as they were part of an album assembled at the time of their creation where they must have served as conversation pieces.

Bertall (Charles Albert d'Arnoux)
Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877)
Woodburytype print on paper, mounted on album sheet

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Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon)
Edmond de Goncourt (1822-1896)
Woodburytype print on paper, mounted on album sheet

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Pierre Petit
Charles Lecocq (1832-1918)
Woodburytype print on paper, mounted on album sheet

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Modeste Chambey
Alfred Grévin (1827-1892)
Woodburytype print on paper, mounted on album sheet

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Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon)
Anatole Marquet-Vasselot (1840-1904)
Woodburytype print on paper, mounted on album sheet

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Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon)
Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic (1839-1889)
Woodburytype print on paper, mounted on album sheet

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Franck (François-Marie Gobinet de Villecholle)
Jules Grévy (1807-1891)
Woodburytype print on paper, mounted on album sheet

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Franck (François-Marie Gobinet de Villecholle)
Félix Dupanloup (1802-1878)
Woodburytype print on paper, mounted on album sheet

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