[Organ Grinder at 21, quai Bourbon, Ile Saint-Louis, Paris]

Object Details


[Organ Grinder at 21, quai Bourbon, Ile Saint-Louis, Paris]


Charles Nègre (French, 1820 - 1880)




Paris, France (Place created)


before March or May 1853


Salted paper print from a paper negative


10 x 8.3 cm (3 15/16 x 3 1/4 in.)

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Amidst a rapidly changing urban landscape, Charles Nègre photographed traditional street people. The itinerant musician, stooped slightly from the weight of his instrument, is about to enter a door. One foot stands on the step and his hand rests upon the doorknob. In comparison with André-Adolphe-Eugene Disdéri's Organ-Grinder, made around the same time, this musician is depicted at the weary end of a day's labor rather than playing at his instrument.

Because exposure times in the 1850s prevented much spontaneity, Charles Nègre had to pose his subject upon the threshold in a stance that the organ-grinder could maintain for the duration of the exposure. The vignette effect of the print's darkened edges was a technical sacrifice that Nègre accepted in order to shorten his exposure time. Serving also as a frame for the subject, the dark rim draws the viewer's attention to the isolated figure and produces a more focused image.

The Flowering of Early French Photography, 1840-1870 (April 28 to June 28, 1987)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), April 28 to June 28, 1987
The Flowering of Early French Photography: Selections from the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection (December 20, 1988 to May 7, 1989)
  • The Baltimore Museum of Art, (Baltimore), December 20, 1988 to February 12, 1989
  • Toledo Museum of Art, (Toledo), March 11 to May 7, 1989
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA, (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
Capturing Time: A Celebration of Photographs (December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998