[The Oriel Window, South Gallery, Lacock Abbey]

Artist: William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800–1877 Lacock)

Date: probably 1835

Medium: Paper negative

Dimensions: Sheet: 8.5 × 11.6 cm (3 3/8 × 4 9/16 in.), irregularly trimmed

Classification: Negatives

Credit Line: The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee and Anonymous Gifts, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.382.1


This mysterious view through the diamond-paned oriel window of Talbot's home is one of the earliest photographs in existence—a remarkable relic of the inventor's earliest attempts to make pictures solely through the action of light and chemicals. He brushed a piece of writing paper with salt and silver nitrate and placed it in a small wooden camera stationed on a mantel opposite the window for an exposure that may have lasted hours. The image is tonally reversed—a negative, though the term did not yet exist—as the paper darkened most where it recorded the bright light of the windows.