[Flower Study, Rose of Sharon], ca. 1854
Adolphe Braun (French, 1812–1877)
Albumen silver print from glass negative; 14 3/4 x 16 1/2 in. (37.5 x 41.9 cm)
Gift of Gilman Paper Company, in memory of Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr., 1987 (1987.1161)
Unlike many nineteenth-century photographs primarily intended as scientific records, this elegant flower study was meant for commercial application and only later was valued for its completeness and compositional finesse. Braun began his career as a draftsman at a large textile firm; in 1848, he opened his own photographic studio, where he produced images to be used as models by artists and designers.
Perhaps stirred by a gentle breeze during the long exposure, several of the blossoms (roses of Sharon and common roses) registered with a slight blurriness, making them appear almost to breathe and to reach beyond the dimensions of the photograph. Carefully arranged and photographed against a medium gray background, the petals, leaves, and stems are rendered with an exquisite clarity and tonal richness, masterfully recording their texture and fragility.