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Marceline Desbordes-Valmore
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This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Nadar
French, April - May 1854
Salt print
7 3/4 x 5 7/8 in.
84.XM.436.141

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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.