Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne de Boulogne (French, 1806–1875)
1854–56, printed 1862
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 29.8 x 22.3 cm (11 3/4 x 8 3/4 in.)
Mount: 40.1 x 28.5 cm (15 13/16 x 11 1/4 in.)
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation Gift, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, 2012
Not on view
In compiling a scientific treatise to aid artists, the physiologist Duchenne de Boulogne used electrical stimulation of the facial muscles to elicit expressions of the principal emotions. Wanting his transcriptions to be exact, he collaborated with Adrien Tournachon (brother of the famous Nadar), a photographer who specialized in portraiture. From the negatives they made together in 1854, Adrien produced a single set of carefully crafted prints that the doctor mounted in a large album (now École des Beaux-Arts, Paris). Later, on his own, Duchenne copied and cropped the images to create illustrations for his book Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine; ou, Analyse électro-physiologique de l’expression des passions applicable à la pratique des arts plastiques (1862). In the volume, Duchenne wrote that the subject of this image seems terrified of the idea of imminent death or torture: “This expression must be that of the damned.”
Inscription: Printed on mount recto, TC: ELECTRO-PHYSIOLOGIE PHOTOGRAPHIQUE [underlined]; inscribed in negative, TRC: "Fig. 04"; printed on mount recto, BR below image: "DUCHENNE (de Boulogne), phot."
[...] Charles Lennox Wright II; [...]; [Unidentified antique dealer, New York]; private collector, New York, 2011; [Winter Works on Paper, New York]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 60," September 11, 2012–January 13, 2013.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "About Face: Human Expression on Paper," July 27, 2015–December 13, 2015.
Dr. Duchenne de Boulogne was a physiologist who conducted a suite of experiments to elicit expressions of the principal emotions through the electrical stimulation of facial muscles. He planned to publish a scientific grammar of human emotions for the use of artists, a manual to replace older treatises on expression and physiognomy such as those by Le Brun and Lavater. Since Duchenne wanted the transcription of the expressions to be exact, he sought a photographer who specialized in portraiture and found Adrien Tournachon (brother of the famous Nadar). From the negatives they took together in 1854, Adrien made a single set of carefully crafted prints which the doctor mounted in a large album, now in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Later, and on his own, Duchenne copied and cropped the images in his album to make the illustrations for his book "Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine ou analyse électro-physiologique de l’expression des passions applicable à la pratique des arts plastiques" (1862). The book is most commonly found in an octavo edition with plates approximately 3-1/2 x 4-1/2 inches (see MMA 1993.248). Far rarer are the near life-size plates from the deluxe quarto edition, also of 1862, such as this image.
This image was figure 64 in Duchenne’s volume, with the caption “Contraction combinée des peauciers et des sourciliers, associée à l’abaissement volontaire de la mâchoire inférieure: effroi mêlé de douleur, torture.” (Combined contraction of the platysma and eyebrows, associated with the voluntary lowering of the jaw: terror, tinged with pain, torture.) In the corresponding text, Duchenne writes that the subject seems terrified of the idea of imminent death or torture. “This expression must be that of the damned,” he writes. Indeed, the photograph is a powerfully expressive portrait, one that prompts both horror and pity.
This photograph is one of 50 plates which accompany a bound copy of the volume, previously owned by the painter Charles Lennox Wright II (1876–1966). See 2013.173.1–46 for additional plates from the same set.