Jean-François-Philibert Berthelier was a singer, comic actor, and a kind of nineteenth-century "pop star." In the 1850s his performances were wildly popular throughout Europe in concert halls and salons. This portrait then would have been the equivalent of a publicity photograph. Nadar photographed Berthelier in character; in a single still image, Nadar skillfully managed to make the comedian look funny.
He wears a fanciful, tassel-topped knitted cap while clutching a more sedate hat in front of him. His straw-like hair falls awkwardly around his neck in defiance of gravity and style. Berthelier wears an expression of mischievous glee as he looks off to the side, as if contemplating some act of impropriety taking place just out of the frame.