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Alexandre Dumas

Nadar (French, Paris 1820–1910 Paris)

November 1855
Salted paper print from glass negative
Image: 23.8 x 18.5cm (9 3/8 x 7 5/16in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Félix Tournachon first met Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) in the 1820s, when the young author brought manuscripts to his father, Victor Tournachon, to publish. After admiring Dumas's swashbuckling historical dramas at school, Félix became his friend in the 1840s, a period when he was working as a journalist, novelist, and caricaturist with the nom de plume Nadar. In 1855 the two men dreamed of writing a play together, but eventually they collaborated only on this portrait, made in November of that year.
    Seated casually, his hands folded comfortably on his cane, Dumas addressed Nadar with a jovial vivacity suggesting the camaraderie that was their wont. His lively expression surely owes something to the interest he took in his friend's conversation, but it also derives from Nadar's uncanny ability to draw from his sitters their most characteristic expressions. He avowed that although anyone could learn to photograph in a single session, what could not be taught was "a feel for light" and a quick intuition for "the moral comprehension of one's subject . . . which permits the most familiar and favorable resemblance, the intimate one."

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Blindstamp of St. Lazare studio on mount; signed in ink on print, recto BR: "Nadar/ 113 St. Lazare"

  • Provenance

    (sold Sotheby's Park Bernet, November 2, 1979, lot 238A); Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York

  • Notes

    Mounted salt print is bound into book with numerous engravings, an albumen print, and a drawing depicting Dumas. The book also contains "Le Caucase, Journal de Voyages et Romans," evidently from a periodical published 16 April 1859.

  • See also