Portrait of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Object Details

Title:

Portrait of Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Artist/Maker(s):

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820 - 1910)

Culture:

French

Date:

1854

Medium:

Salted paper print

Dimensions:

19.6 x 14.9 cm (7 3/4 x 5 7/8 in.)

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That Nadar was able to persuade the Romantic poet Madame Desbordes-Valmore to sit for him at the very beginning of his career as a photographer had much to do with the reputation he had earlier gained as a caricaturist of literary and artistic circles. Her career, to which she had been late in coming, was nearly over. Although her name is now obscure, she was a well-known poet in her day, highly praised by her peers.

When Nadar photographed her, Desbordes-Valmore was sixty-eight. She came to the studio somewhat reluctantly, citing her age and "the cruelty of the sun." The resigned sadness of her weathered face bespoke not only climate but also the difficulties of her eventful life and the deaths of her brother, two sisters, two daughters, and most of her closest friends in recent years. Nadar focused the camera so carefully on her face and figure that the chair on which she sat and its shadow on the wall receded into the distance together. Nadar later photographed her a final time, on her deathbed in 1859. This is the only known print of this image.

Exhibitions
Nadar (June 6, 1994 to July 9, 1995)
  • Musée d'Orsay, (Paris), June 6 to September 11, 1994, (Cat.)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), April 3 to July 9, 1995, (Cat.)
Nadar/Warhol: Paris/New York (July 20, 1999 to May 28, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 20 to October 10, 1999, (Cat.)
  • The Andy Warhol Museum, (Pittsburgh), November 6, 1999 to January 30, 2000, (Cat.)
  • The Baltimore Museum of Art, (Baltimore), March 12 to May 28, 2000, (Cat.)
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004, (Cat.)
Bibliography

Baldwin, Gordon, and Judith Keller. Nadar Warhol: Paris New York: Photography and Fame. Introduction by Richard Brilliant. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999) p. 60.