Here Theophile Gautier embodies the image of the Romantic poet. He sports an elegant cap of damask cloth trimmed with braid. His shaggy beard and hair seem to grow right into his furry overcoat. He stands gazing thoughtfully away from the camera, solemn and erect, his hand thrust into his waistcoat.
Gautier was a poet and journalist who championed the concept of "art for art's sake," that is, that art need serve no other purpose than to exist for its own achievement. He later softened his approach, explaining that, "smitten in my youngest years with painting and sculpture, I became a delirious lover of art
." Gautier and Nadar were lifelong friends. As editor of the journal L'Artiste, Gautier published many of Nadar's photographs, including this portrait in 1859.
The oval print is of the kind that Nadar offered for sale in his studio, an edition print. Another print of this same image is arched at the top like a tombstone.