[Classical Head in Profile]

Hippolyte Bayard French

Not on view

This luminous head seems to materialize before our very eyes, as if we are observing the moment in which the latent photographic image becomes visible. Nineteenth-century eyewitnesses to Hippolyte Bayard’s earliest photographs (direct positives on paper) described a similarly enchanting effect, in which hazy outlines coalesced with light and tone to form charmingly faithful, if indistinct, images. These works, which Bayard referred to as essais (tests or trials), often included statues and busts, which he frequently arranged in elaborate tableaux. In this case, he photographed the lone subject (an idealized classical head) from the front and side, as if it were a scientific specimen. The singular object emerges as a relic from photography’s origins and now distant past.

[Classical Head in Profile], Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801–1887), Salted paper print

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.