Aug 21, 2007

Matra Reinhard

Matra Reinhard


Jacques-Philippe Potteau

(French, 1807–1876)

Albumen print from wet collodion negative

Image: 17.2 x 12.3 cm (6 3/4 x 4 13/16 in.); Mounted: 37.5 x 28.2 cm (14 3/4 x 11 1/8 in.); Matted: 45.7 x 35.6 cm (18 x 14 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1999.114



These striking portraits of working-class girls were made as ethnographic or artistic studies of types. Potteau’s photograph was part of an anthropological series the naturalist produced for the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Employing the standard commercial portrait studio conventions of the time, he carefully posed his subject in an even light. However, instead of a painted backdrop, Potteau used a plain background as if shooting a scientific specimen. On the mount he recorded her biographical data: her name, that she was born in Paris to parents from Bohemia five years ago, and that she stands three and a half feet tall.

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