Primitive 19th century photography

From Baldus to Le Gray : the Duke of Aumale's exceptional collection of photographs.

Portrait of Henri d'Orléans, Duke of Aumale at the age of thirty (1852) by Joseph VigierChâteau de Chantilly

The Condé Museum houses 1900 photographs from the latter half of the 19th century. This set comes from Henri d'Orléans, Duke of Aumale (1822), the fifth son of King Louis-Philippe, whose generation saw the birth and development of photography. 

This art lover, considered one of the greatest collectors of the 19th century, began acquiring prints at a very young age, especially during his exile in England.

Vase of Sèvres with mythological decoration and one of the four lying figures, modeled after Klagmann (1853) by Louis-Rémy RobertChâteau de Chantilly

From the daguerreotype to the first color photograph, the Duke of Aumale collected works representative of the photography of his time. So what exactly did photography represent for Henri d'Orléans?

 Was it a simple scientific curiosity and a way for him to reproduce works of art, monuments and the people dear to him, or was it a true means of expression? Was it a technique or an art form?

Oriental woman lying down with a narghile at her feet (Vers 1855) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

Primitive photography 

When we talk about primitive photography, we are referring to those photographers who, during the latter half of the 19th century, fought for photography to be acknowledged as an art.

 Among these artists, who were active mainly in France and England, were Le Gray, Baldus and the Bisson brothers, whose pictures have been carefully preserved by the Duke of Aumale. 

Some Chronological References

1816: Nicéphore Niépce (1765–1833) affixes the first negative photochemical print of a landscape using a darkroom and thus obtains the first reproduction of an image of nature.

1822: Birth of the Duke of Aumale. 

1839: The process that allows for the creation of a direct and unique positive on metal is officially revealed under the name of daguerreotype on August 19, at the Institut de France, thanks to the research of Daguerre and Niécpe.

The Duke of Aumale at 17 years old.

1844: There are 12 photo studios in Paris.

1852: The first photo exhibition in London at the Society of Arts.

1854: Creation of the Société Française de la Photographie (SFP).

1862: In November, Ingres, Flandrin, Henriquel-Dupont and other artists sign a petition against the assimilation of photography as an art.

1868: Louis Ducros Hauron files a patent: the first color photographs.

The Orleans family at a garden party at Orleans House in Twickenham by Camille SilvyChâteau de Chantilly


The Duke of Aumale was related to most of the crowned heads of Europe: the royal families of England, Naples, Spain, and the imperial family of Austria, etc. As a result, he kept family portraits, many of which date back to the primitive photography period. 

Portraits d’Henri d’Orléans, duc d’Aumale et de son frère, le prince de Joinville à Claremont (1848) by Based on Jean François ClaudetChâteau de Chantilly

This is the oldest preserved photograph today in Chantilly. The Duke of Aumale poses with his brother, the Prince of Joinville, in 1848 at Claremont, at the beginning of their family's exile in England, which lasted until 1871.

The museum houses an early reproduction or aristotype of the image, which bears a tribute to Claudet and a date: 1848 in Claremont, written in the handwriting of Gustave Macon, the Duke of Aumale's secretary.

Portrait of Henri d'Orléans, Duke of Aumale at the age of thirty (1852) by Joseph VigierChâteau de Chantilly

This beautiful portrait of the Duke of Aumale also belongs to a series of photographs taken by Joseph Vigier in September 1852 during the Orléans' exile in Claremont.  

Vigier, a former student of the Duke of Aumale at the Lycée Henri IV, was an eminent figure in the burgeoning photography scene and a founding member of the Société Française de la Photographie (SFP). 

The Royal Family of England: Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children in Osborne (1857) by Leonida CaldesiChâteau de Chantilly

This is one of the rare photographs showing Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children, who were relatives of the Orléans family in exile and therefore of the Duke of Aumale. It was taken after the Queen's birthday on May 27, 1857, at the Royal Family's estate.

We recognize, from left to right, Prince Alfred, Prince Albert, Princess Helene, Prince Arthur, Queen Victoria holding Princess Beatrice on her knees, Princess Royal, Princess Louise, Prince Leopold, and the Prince of Wales, Albert-Edouard.

Queen Victoria noted in her diary that it did indeed take two hours "because Caldesi photographed us all". 

The Palais du Louvre in Paris, the square courtyard, the clock pavilion (1855) by Bisset BrothersChâteau de Chantilly

Architecture and landscapes

In the Duke of Aumale's collection, there are many landscapes, with photographs of both the sea and of snow-capped mountains. These prints particularly illustrate the craze for hiking and mountaineering among noble and bourgeois circles of the 19th century. There are also urban and architectural shots, particularly of Paris in the 1850s. Photographed in the midst of transformation, Paris is a city to which the duke can no longer have access, owing to the exile of his family.

Paris: the Louvre and the Tuileries as seen from the court of Napoleon, Baldus (1860) by Edouard BaldusChâteau de Chantilly

Edouard-Denis Baldus (1813–1889), who was born in Prussia and became a naturalized Frenchman, is "the greatest French architecture photographer of the 1850s", according to Françoise Heilbrun, honorary Chief Curator at the Musée d'Orsay. 

Baldus is known for his depictions of French architecture and landscapes.

Here, he captures the Tuileries, the official residence of Louis-Philippe—and thus of the Duke of Aumale—before the revolution of 1848, from Napoleon's courtyard, where the Louvre pyramid now stands.

Panoramic view of the port of Algiers (1860-1865) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

Highly active during the French military campaign in Algeria (1830–1857), the Duke of Aumale owned many Orientalist objects, paintings, and photographs (the romantic movement of the 19th century marked by artists' interest in and curiosity about the Maghreb and the Middle East). 

Among this vast collection, we find this large panorama of the Port of Algiers, which is composed of six 7 x 9.5 inch (18 x 24 cm) sheets.

The Duke of Aumale was very fond of Algiers, which he discovered at the age of 18 and where he lived as an administrator with his young wife and family in 1847, when he was appointed Military Governor of Algeria after the capture of Abd-el-Kader, on May 16, 1843.

Acropolis of Athens (Vers 1860) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

This view of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, was taken before the buildings in the foreground were torn down in the 1860s.

In September 1864, the Duke of Aumale took a family trip to Athens and Turkey. Therefore, it's natural that he acquired photographs of this famous archaeological site. This photograph shows this erudite prince's interest in archaeology.

Brig in the moonlight (1856) by Gustave Le GrayChâteau de Chantilly

Within the Duke's collection, there are also many landscapes, both photographs of the sea and of snow-capped mountains. These prints illustrate in particular the enthusiasm for hiking and mountaineering in the noble and bourgeois circles of the 19th century.

A great pioneer of photography, Gustave Le Gray produced one of the first shots in which we simultaneously see the movement of the sea and the clouds in the sky. He obtained this image by juxtaposing landscapes from paper negatives and skies from glass negatives.

Rendering the sky back then was very difficult because it appeared blurry. Photographers often resorted to subterfuge: they painted the glass negative with black gouache paint. 

A View of Switzerland, Zermatt and the Matterhorn (1863) by Adolphe BraunChâteau de Chantilly

Snowy mountain views were very fashionable in the 1860's and became a genre within the emerging photography scene. The most famous artists in this genre were the Bisson brothers and Adolphe Braun, of whom the Condé Museum preserves several large views of the Swiss Alps that are typical of this movement.

The Duke of Aumale's landscape acquisitions attest to his interest in the optical research carried out by photographers of the time, in order to render a landscape in its entirety.

Mona Lisa (XIXème siècle) by Leonardo da Vinci and Gustave Le GrayChâteau de Chantilly

The reproduction of art objects 

The Duke of Aumale owns many reproductions of works of art. These are often shots dedicated to the study of his collections, capturing his personal treasures or the works of his favorite artists. 

Furthermore, they sometimes include art works that are being offered to the collector for purchase, since art dealers would send pictures to him.

In any case, the Duke of Aumale seems to recognize the superiority of photography over engraving to reproduce a work without interpreting it.

Michelangelo's Moses (XIXème siècle) by UnknownChâteau de Chantilly

This photograph shows the statue of Moses sculpted by Michelangelo, created around 1513-1515, integrated into the tomb of Julius II in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Its place in the Duke of Aumale's photographic collection further illustrates his fine knowledge of the arts, and more particularly, of the great masters of the Italian Renaissance (from the 14th to 16th centuries)

Ceramics from the Manufacture de Sèvres, three bisque figures (1855) by Louis-Rémy RobertChâteau de Chantilly

These three figures in Sèvres bisque porcelain by sculptor Jean-Baptiste Jules Klagmann (1810-1867) represent The Word (1851-1853), Science (1851) and Scripture (1853), according to the research of Tamara Préaud, former archivist of the Sèvres porcelain factory.

They were exhibited at the 1885 Universal Exhibition.

Vase of Sèvres with mythological decoration and one of the four lying figures, modeled after Klagmann (1853) by Louis-Rémy RobertChâteau de Chantilly

This vase is one of the four reclining figures made in 1853 and is dedicated to agriculture, with a figure and ornaments in white paste on a celadon background (a type of translucent green or blue-gray ceramic), both by Klagmann.

The vase measures 67 cm in height and 42 cm in width.

The Great Eastern (1857) by Robert HowlettChâteau de Chantilly

Current event images 

Photographers initially struggled to represent scenes from current events, given the technical difficulties posed when attempting to create a snapshot, with exposure times still remaining very long. Yet little by little, as technology progressed, the first news reports would develop.

During the Duke of Aumale's stay in England, Howlett reported in November 1857 for the Illustrated Times on what was the world's largest steamship until 1902: the Leviathan.

The Great Eastern, detail (1857) by Robert HowlettChâteau de Chantilly

An ode to technology and commerce, she was built by engineers John Scott Russel, Henry Wakefield, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, in the shipyards of East End London, hence the nickname, the Great Eastern.

Group of Croatian chiefs (1855) by Roger FentonChâteau de Chantilly

The Duke of Aumale defines himself as a soldier, so the first war reports were of interest to him. Here, Roger Fenton (1819-1869) created a report for Queen Victoria, the Duke of Aumale's cousin, on the siege of Sebastopol during the Crimean War (1854-1855).

The duke bought 45 prints of the report on the Crimean War in London in 1855 and 1856, where he found the army corps and the officers he commanded in Algeria.

Portrait of Louis Jean Marie de Bourbon, Duke of Penthièvre (1725-1793), based on a painting by Jean Marc Nattier (1878) by Louis Ducos du HauronChâteau de Chantilly

The beginnings of color photography

Louis Ducos du Hauron can be considered a pioneer of color photography. He submitted his discovery to the Société Française de la Photographie (SFP) on May 7, 1869, the same day as Charles Cros.

Both exploit the resources of trichromy, a technique that allows for the reproduction of a very large number of colors through the separation and superposition of the three primary colors.

The Duke of Aumale acquired this unpublished color photograph, taken in 1878 of a painting by Jean-Marie Nattier depicting his great-grandfather, the young Duke of Penthièvre, with ships in the background recalling his position as Admiral of France.

A View of Switzerland, Hofstetten near the river Thun (1863-1865) by Adolphe BraunChâteau de Chantilly

The study of the photographic prints from Chantilly shows the Duke of Aumale's interest in photography as an art form in its own right.

With photography, he seems to go even further than he does with painting, by buying pure landscapes such as the five seascapes by Le Gray and the views of Switzerland by Adolphe Braun. These are purchases that can only be explained by the collector prince's whims.

Tugboat at sea (1856-1857) by Gustave Le GrayChâteau de Chantilly

His collection, which covers an entire generation of photography pioneers, from Baldus to Le Gray and Fenton, and which includes many themes, reflects the different facets of the personality of this great 19th century intellectual.

Credits: Story

A virtual exhibition from the exhibition Primitive 19th Century Photography organized at the Condé Museum, Domaine de Chantilly, from October 31, 2018 to January 6, 2019. Curator: Nicole Garnier-Pelle, General Heritage Curator in charge of the Condé Museum

The texts are inspired by those in the exhibition catalog Primitive 19th century photography, from Baldus to Gray, under the direction of Nicole Garnier-Pelle, co-edited by Faton and Domaine de Chantilly, 2019.

Virtual exhibition designed by Clara Voiry.

Images ©RMN-Grand Palais Domaine de Chantilly

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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