In 1844 both Auguste Vitu and Nadar were journalists, living in garrets in the narrow rue des Canettes, across which they carried on aerial conversations. A jack-of-all-trades literary, Vitu revolved through the editorships of several small newspapers and was by turns editor, political or military historian, drama or literary critic, and writer of fiction and financial manuals.
By the time Vitu sat for Nadar in 1860, his appearance betrayed his political opinions. His pointed and waxed mustache and goatee are modeled on those of Napoleon III. Nadar, a progressive thinker, lamented the fact that a man as spirited as Vitu had become a sympathizer of the Empire. The intensity of Vitu's gaze reflects his verve.