Salted paper print from waxed paper negative
Image: 50.9 x 31.1 cm (20 1/16 x 12 1/4 in.); Matted: 76.2 x 61 cm (30 x 24 in.)
Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 2004.32
Trained as a painter, Le Secq was drawn to the new invention of photography in the late 1840s. He
became one of the most gifted early photographers to record architecture and sculpture before his
brief, illustrious career ended in 1856. Only one of two known prints, this large-scale image,
exceptional for the period and process, belongs to a small group of photographs of troglodyte dwellings in western France near the Loire River.
In the mid 19th century, artists of all media were attracted to rustic domestic scenes for both their
picturesque qualities and social implications. Since medieval times, people had inhabited caves in France. Around the 15th century, the term troglodyte came into common use to refer to groups of political activists who found their way around property taxes assessed in such a way that people living underground could avoid them.
Relying on an elevated vantage point for this picture, Le Secq made the dark, rounded, and mysterious entranceway the central feature of the composition. This contact print displays his prowess at interpreting historic architecture.
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