Hippolyte Bayard (French, 1801-1887)
Petite fille au bouquet, mid 1840s
Salt print from a paper negative
16.6 x 12.8 cm hinged onto 26.5 x 20.8 paper
Hippolyte Bayard invented an independent photographic process in early 1839, but despite this achievement, he generally receives much less attention than either William Henry Fox Talbot, who benefitted from his own personal wealth, or Louis Daguerre, who enjoyed institutional support from the French state. Nevertheless, Bayard persisted with his photographic experimentation and ultimately adopted a version of Talbot’s process to produce an extensive body of architectural and portrait photographs.
This charming but mysterious portrait is almost entirely unique within Bayard’s oeuvre. Most of his portraits are casual scenes set outside in gardens and taken with no attempt to disguise the location, but here Bayard transformed an outdoor flagstone patio into a portrait interior with a makeshift backdrop, table, chair and a vase of flowers. Artifice was not uncommon to Bayard’s work overall (he is best known for his ‘self portrait’ as a drowned man, for example) but Bayard rarely used such a deception to create a formal portrait picture. Perhaps there was a specific story that went along with this picture, an allegory about youth and beauty, but if that is the case, the young model seems uninterested in participating. Indeed, another print of this image reproduced in Lo Duca’s book is titled “La Petite Boudeuse au Bouquet” (The Little Sulking Girl with a Bouquet) but, given the long exposure times necessary for 1840s photography, she was likely directed to act indifferent, holding this position for a matter of seconds. We can assume that she was an acquaintance of Bayard (most of his portraits are of friends), and yet another print was at one point titled “Portrait of Mlle. C.” (Société française de photographie, see Harmant) but her exact identity remains unknown.