Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Album di Disegni Fotogenici: The "Bertoloni Album"
    William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800–1877)
    Album of 36 photogenic drawings
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1936 (36.37)

    [Table Set for Tea]: From the "Bertoloni Album," 1839
    William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800–1877)
    Photogenic drawing from a paper negative; Image: 5 1/4 x 8 in. (13.4 x 20.2 cm); sheet: 6 3/4 x 8 5/8 (17 x 21.8 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1936 (36.37.36)

    One of the most treasured objects in the Department of Photographs, Album di Disegni Fotogenici is among the rarest of photographic incunabula, containing the first photographic images seen in Italy, a trove of early pictures sent by Talbot to a fellow botanist, Antonio Bertoloni. A serious and enthusiastic amateur botanist in England, Talbot had corresponded with and sent botanical specimens to Bertoloni beginning in 1826. It was natural, then, that Talbot sent his colleague in Bologna a copy of his treatise Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawing, or the Process by which Natural Objects May Be Made to Delineate Themselves without the Aid of the Artist's Pencil soon after its publication in early 1839.

    More startling than Talbot's written account were the contents of five small packets he sent to Bertoloni between June 1839 and June 1840. In each, Talbot enclosed examples of his new art: first, photogenic drawings made by placing objects on top of photosensitized paper and exposing them to sunlight (what we would today call photograms), and later, photogenic drawings printed from negatives made in a camera obscura (what we have come to call photographs). Bertoloni carefully preserved these first products of the new medium and assembled them, along with related written material, in the album now at the Metropolitan. Album di Disegni Fotogenici contains thirty-six photogenic drawings by Talbot, twenty made from direct contact with objects, fifteen made from camera negatives, and one made with a solar microscope; three letters from Talbot and one from his uncle, William Fox-Strangways; three printed notices; and three photogenic drawings—the first to be made in Italy—by the Italian chemist Tassinari.

    In the Bertoloni Album, the photogenic drawings printed from camera negatives depict Talbot's home and gardens at the thirteenth-century Lacock Abbey, as well as plaster casts, lithographs, and the nearby estate, Bowood. Several photographs in the album transcend their documentary and demonstrative function by virtue of their extraordinary beauty and sense of intimacy. In these Talbot shared with Bertoloni details of his life: a circular table set for tea, an arrangement of garden implements, and a view of the grounds of Lacock Abbey, inscribed by Talbot in Italian on the verso, "Mio Giardino."

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  • Album di Disegni Fotogenici: The "Bertoloni Album"
    William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800–1877)
    Album of 36 photogenic drawings
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1936 (36.37)

    [Table Set for Tea]: From the "Bertoloni Album," 1839
    William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800–1877)
    Photogenic drawing from a paper negative; Image: 5 1/4 x 8 in. (13.4 x 20.2 cm); sheet: 6 3/4 x 8 5/8 (17 x 21.8 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1936 (36.37.36)

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