Italian composer and prolific master of lighthearted opera buffa, Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868) became the director of the Théâtre-Italien in Paris in 1824. After completing William Tell in 1829, he ceased writing and returned to Italy, where his nerves and health deteriorated. On moving back to Paris in 1855, the famous gourmand recovered his spirits and became a beloved fixture of Parisian society."I come from Rossini's," Léon Escudier wrote Nadar on March 5, 1856. "He will be free tomorrow from one-thirty to two. Do your utmost to make certain that we shall be alone. I have assured him that you will make a portrait worthy of him. Accordingly, prepare everything so that he won't have to wait." Nadar exposed two plates. On one he caught only a vacancy, the trace of years of lethargy, but on the other, identical in pose, it is as if a cloud had lifted, revealing the puckish wit that had survived.