Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

[Man in Chainmail Tunic Posing as a Dying Soldier]

Artist:
Adrien Constant de Rebecque (Swiss, Lausanne 1806–1876 Lausanne)
Date:
ca. 1863
Medium:
Albumen print from collodion glass negative
Dimensions:
Image: 17.9 x 24.2 cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/2 in.) Mount: 27.2 x 37 cm (10 11/16 x 14 9/16 in.)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Howard Gilman Foundation Gift, 2012
Accession Number:
2012.110
Not on view
The early Swiss photographer Constant Delessert was likely introduced to the medium by his wife’s Parisian cousins Édouard and Benjamin Delessert. Although Constant was known through exhibition records, his membership in the Société Française de Photographie, and his writings on photographic processes, his work was unfamiliar until recently, when a series of his albums appeared at auction, filled primarily with standard portraits of family members and others, city and landscape views, and a few genre scenes.

This unusual photograph, however, stands apart from his more typical work. Undoubtedly made as a study for a painting, it shows a man dressed in a chainmail tunic, striking the classic pose of a dying warrior. By the early 1860s photography had become a common aid for painters and sculptors, but this work vividly reveals the differences between the mediums: the heroic figure, full of pathos, dying on the battlefield in some grand history painting may have had its origin in a model posed in the studio on a carpet, his head supported by a cut- velvet pillow on the seat of a finely carved chair.
Descendants of the artist; [Planete Collections, Geneva, 2011]; [Photo Verdeau, Paris, 2011]; [Charles Isaacs Photographs, New York, 2011]

Adrien Constant de Rebecque (called Constant Delessert) was an early Swiss photographer, likely introduced to the medium by his wife’s Parisian cousins Edouard and Benjamin Delessert. Although Constant Delessert was known through exhibition records, his membership in the Société française de photographie, and his own writings on photographic processes, his work was little known until 2011, when a series of albums were discovered at the family home and sold.

Undoubtedly made as a study for a painting, this photograph shows a man dressed in a chainmail tunic and striking the classic pose of a dying warrior. While the Met’s collection has a number of nude studies intended for artists, this work strikes another chord that speaks to the differences between photography and painting: the heroic figure, full of pathos, dying on the battlefield, in a grand history painting, may have had its origin here in a model posed in the studio on a carpet, his head supported by a cut velvet pillow on the seat of a finely carved chair.
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