Articles of Glass

Henry Fox Talbot1844

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Barely five years after first showing his invention—photography on paper—to the public, the Victorian polymath Henry Talbot took on an ambitious subject. Still-life painters frequently included cut crystal or glassware in their elaborate fruit or flower compositions, in part as a demonstration of virtuoso technique, depicting a transparent object made visible only as reflected and refracted light.

Taken in broad daylight, this image was featured in Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature (1844–46), the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs. In the text that accompanied a similar photograph titled Articles of China, Talbot wrote that “the whole cabinet of a Virtuoso and collector . . . might be depicted on paper in little more time than it would take him to make a written inventory.” Furthermore, he recognized how such pictures could provide “mute testimony” as legal evidence should a thief steal one of the items on view.

Show lessRead more


  • Title: Articles of Glass
  • Creator: William Henry Fox Talbot
  • Date: 1844
  • Physical Dimensions: w23.1 x h18.6 cm (sheet)
  • Type: Photographs
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Salted paper print from paper negative
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Manfred Heiting Collection

Additional Items