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Photographs

A Journey Through Rome in 35 Daguerreotypes

By Sotheby's

T his remarkable collection of works by Joseph Philibert Girault de Prangey takes us to one of the first destinations on his Grand Tour: Rome, with its intimate streets, its impressive monuments and architecture details and even very rare portraits of people and animals. Of his three month stay in 1842, he brought back an extraordinary testimony, from which we are presenting 35 daguerreotypes.

Also present in this collection is his late body of work showing albumen prints and stereoscopic views. An important exhibition of his work has just been announced by the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Musée d'Orsay in Paris in 2019.

Girault de Prangey was born in Langres, North Eastern France, in 1804 as the sole heir of a wealthy family of the local aristocracy. His artistic talents led him to drawing classes in Langres with his friend the painter Jules Ziegler. He continued his studies at the Ecole des Beaux- Arts in Paris and received lessons from landscape painters François-Edme Ricois and Jules Coignet who gave him the love of travelling. During his Parisian years, he also obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Literature in 1826 and Bachelor in Law in 1828. Girault de Prangey’s family fortune allowed him to devote himself to drawing and archaeology.

From 1830 to 1834 he travelled to Italy, Algeria, Spain, Sicily and Switzerland. His family fortune allowed him to devote himself to drawing and archaeology. A great lover of architecture and the East, he was also one of the founding members of the Archaeological Society of Langres in 1836. While planning a new journey, the process of daguerreotype was disclosed in 1839. Immediately, Girault de Prangey was enthusiastic about this new tool that seems to meet his aspirations: an accurate registration of monuments and their architectural details.

Despite a very long exposure time and the challenges inherent to this early technique, the image he made remains disconcertingly fascinating 176 years later. His precious portraits — campagnolei (men from the countryside), a giuncatarro (cheesemonger), a Nemi fisherman and a young woman with a flower — were highly original for their time. So was this close-up daguerreotype of oxen in the Forum, an extremely rare view.

This exceptional collection of daguerreotypes allows us to make a Journey through Rome at the time when the very first photographers made it to the city. The daguerreotypes will be on display at Sotheby’s Paris during the photography week Paris Photo and sold at auction on Friday November 9.

You can download the brochure containing further details and texts on the collection A Travel to Rome – Exceptional Daguerreotypes by Girault de Prangey here.

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