Frederick Langenheim Looking at Talbotypes

William Langenheim (American, born Germany, Schöningen 1807–1874)

Frederick Langenheim (American, born Germany, Schöningen 1809–1879)
ca. 1849–51
Visible: 4 3/4 x 3 1/2; Case: 6 x 4 11/16 x 5/8
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    In 1849 the Langenheim brothers bought the United States patent for making photographs from paper negatives from William Henry Fox Talbot, the medium's inventor. The Langenheims also continued to produce daguerreotypes, such as this brilliant composition in which Frederick examines a group of Talbotype portraits-including his own-that may themselves be copies of daguerreotypes. In other words, this image presents three distinct subjects: Frederick Langenheim, photography itself, and the very process of reproduction. Using the nonreproducible daguerreotype process to make a picture about reproduction may seem paradoxical, but the incomparable detail seen here, from the visible writing on the mounts of the paper prints to the finely woven pattern in Frederick's silk vest, would have been impossible to capture with a paper negative.

  • Provenance

    Langenheim Family; [Rinhart Galleries, Inc., Colebrook, Connecticut]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, August 4, 1983

  • Notes

    Great historical importance because Frederick is shown looking at Talbotypes (including portraits of himself and his brother); the Langenheims bought the American rights to Talbot's process in 1848.

    On a visit to England in 1849, William Langenheim bought the United States Patent for making photographs from paper negatives from Henry Talbot Fox. One of the Talbotypes of Frederick Langenheim depicted in this image is inscribed with the date 1849, providing an outset date for this image. The Langenheim's exhibited their Talbotypes at the Franklin Institute and at the Crystal Palace, London in 1851. Frederick departed for South America in 1851, providing a terminus ante quem for the plate.


  • See also