Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Not on view
Having learned daguerreotypy directly from its inventor, and having established one of the earliest professional portrait studios in Paris, Louis-Auguste Bisson and his brother Auguste-Rosalie remained faithful to the process until the early 1850s. Bypassing the paper negative processes they began to use large-format glass-plate negatives about 1853 and quickly mastered the process, specializing in architectural views. In these they were rivaled only by Baldus. The late-eleventh- or early-twelfth-century portal of Saint-Ursin, with a sculpted tympanum depicting episodes from fables, a hunting scene, and the labors of the months, is represented here with a clarity and rigor characteristic of their work. The result, however, is far from sterile. Instead, the photograph invites the viewer to enter, tread the paving stones, and assume the place of the anonymous gentleman in black cloak and top hat as he contemplates the carved entranceway. More than just a pictorial device to trigger an imaginary entry into the scene, however, this man's examination of the Romanesque portal embedded in the architecture of a later building and the fabric of a modern city speaks of a developing notion of the present as embracing vestiges of the past. It was this very concept that gave rise to the Bissons' architectural photographs. This image appeared as plate 23 in a vast project entitled Reproductions photographiques des plus beaux types d'architecture et de sculpture d'après les monuments les plus remarquables de l'antiquité, du moyen âge et de la Renaissance..., which included 201 plates issued in fascicles from 1854 to 1862. This print was made by Eugène Placet, who bought the contents of the Bissons' studio in 1864 and continued to print from their negatives.
Inscription: Stamp in red, BR: "Ancienne Maison Bisson Frères"; blindstamp lower left image: "E.P." [Eugène Placet]; blindstamps on mount: "Placet successeur", "E. Quetier et Cie" (distributor)
Bisson Frères; [...]; [Gérard Lévy, Paris]; [Graphics International]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, July 30, 1980
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "The Second Empire, 1852-1870: Art in France under Napolean III," October 1, 1978–November 26, 1978.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "From the Gilman Collection: Photographs Preserved in Ink," November 15, 1984–February 26, 1985.
Palais de Tokyo, Paris. "Procédés, Procédés," October 7, 1987–November 30, 1987.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Master Photographs from the Gilman Collection: A Landmark Acquisition," June 28, 2005–September 6, 2005.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 47," September 20, 2007–January 6, 2008.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 58," January 10, 2012–May 6, 2012.
Philadelphia Museum of Art and Detroit Institute of Arts. The Second Empire, 1852-1870 : art in France under Napoleon III. Wayne State University Press ed. Philadelphia, 1978. p. 406.
Apraxine, Pierre. Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. Reeds Springs, Mo.: White Oak Press, 1985. pl. 39.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 37, p. 292.