Versailles, France

Artist: Eugène Atget (French, Libourne 1857–1927 Paris)

Date: 1923

Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative

Dimensions: 17.8 x 21.9 cm (7 x 8 5/8 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: The Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. Memorial and David Hunter McAlpin Funds, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, and Paul F. Walter, and Mr. and Mrs. John Walsh Gifts, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.5152


After the Great War, Atget frequently focused on mannequins, statues, and other "substitute" actors. At Versailles, where he had worked since 1901, he came to see the sculptures not as felicitous ornaments but as characters in an immemorial play. In this picture, which represents Mosnier's replica of the Dying Gladiator in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, Atget contrasts human pain and artistic beauty, mortal man and the immortal soul. Drawing on his long experience relating near and far objects and vistas in the gardens of Versailles, the photographer juxtaposed the statues so that the figure of Apollo in the background seems to rise like the living spirit escaping the body at death.