Gustave Le Gray (French, 18201884)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005 (2005.100.258)
Le Gray's photograph of Eugénie, wife of Emperor Napoleon III, was apparently intended as an aid to Thomas Couture for a large (and never completed) painting commemorating the baptism of Eugénie's son, the prince imperial. Le Gray, or perhaps Couture himself, posed the empress kneeling at a prie-dieu in the château at Saint-Cloud, elegantly trimmed in white tulle, and set against a dark ground; she plays perfectly her public and private roles, dignified and contemplative, imperial and maternal, in a private space amid imagined ceremony.