Often referred to as the prince of critics, theater critic, novelist, and literary historian Jules Janin was an amazingly prolific French writer of the mid-1800s, now all but forgotten. In conversation he attributed his forty-year success to his having changed his mind every fifteen days, thus continuing to surprise the attentive audience of his weekly theatrical reviews.
Scholars are undecided regarding the authorship of this portrait. For a brief period, Nadar and his brother Adrien Tournachon worked together in the latter's studio in the boulevard des Capucines. Three photographs of Janin wearing these clothes appear to have been made at a single sitting during this period. The three prints suggest a sequence of events in which Janin posed first for Adrien, then for both Adrien and Nadar, and then finally for Nadar alone. Janin's expression becomes progressively less friendly, perhaps due to a quarrel between him and Nadar or perhaps because his gout was troubling him. Nadar inscribed this print with Janin's name; it is probably the middle picture in the series, made by the brothers in collaboration.