Artist: Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820–1884)
Medium: Albumen silver print from a collodion glass negative
Dimensions: Image: 23.4 x 18.3 cm (9 3/16 x 7 3/16 in.)
Mount: 40.1 × 27.5 cm (15 13/16 × 10 13/16 in.)
Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
Accession Number: 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.