Victor Regnault became a professor of physics at the Collège de France in 1841. There he performed classic experiments in thermodynamics and the properties of gases. Around this same time he also began investigating photography. Knowing of his interest in the new technology, his colleague Jean Baptiste Biot at the French Académie des Sciences gave him samples of William Henry Fox Talbot's calotype printing papers. In 1852, the year before the negative for this print was made, Regnault became director of the porcelain factory at Sèvres and was hopeful that photographs could be as permanent as painted porcelain.Adapted from Weston Naef, The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Photographs Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), 52. © 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum.
During his photographic career, Regnault experimented with different processes from the daguerreotype to a range of paper processes. For this image he created a waxed-paper negative that he then shared with another photographer—Alphonse-Louis Poitevin—who used his own highly durable carbon ink process to make this print. It is the only surviving carbon ink print made from Regnault's negative and is also the only known collaborative print between the two artists.
This view of the River Seine at Sèvres is an important complement to Camille Silvy's photograph River Scene (La Vallée de l'Huisne) (90.XM.63), where a similar interest in idyllic landscape composition related to Barbizon school and early Impressionist painting is evident.