Anonymous French Photographer, ‘The Artist and His Wife: A Narrative Portrait’, circa 1847-49, Sotheby's

Important Daguerreotypes from the Stanley B. Burns, MD, Collection

The sitters' identities annotated in a modern hand in ink on the original paper backing.

Each quarter-plate

From the Catalogue:
Extant multiple-image, narrative daguerreotypes such as this unique series of six quarter-plates, are exceedingly rare. At the time of this writing, no other comparable series is believed to have been offered at auction in recent memory.

Early photographers utilized traditions long established by artists working in other media. The beginning decades of photography were an intense time of cross-pollination between visual arts, a concept that has been explored in depth by many scholars. Portrait photographers borrowed compositional techniques from painters by showing sitters with personal or occupational objects to provide a narrative. Further, double portraits (of, perhaps, husband and wife) might mirror and reference each other in clothing, pose, or props. In the present six photographs, the deliberate sequencing of separate images within a frame is highly unique and provides a remarkable amount of insight into the subjects’ lives.

The inscriptions on the reverse of this framed series suggest that the identities of the sitters are husband and wife, Pierre Louis Alexandre Abel Terral (1811-1886) and Catherine Célina Porion (1817-1904). Born and raised in Amiens in northern France, Abel Terral moved to Paris as a young man to study painting. In Alexandre-Quentin Bauchart’s posthumously-published memoir Études et souvenirs sur la deuxième république et le second empire (1848-1870), Terral is described as having been one of the best students of Paul Delaroche, who was a leading advocate of the daguerreotype since its invention (Paris, 1902, p. 191). From 1850 to 1870, Terral is noted as a copyist at the Musée du Louvre, and in 1868 his manual De la Restauration des tableaux was published. Although there appear to be few surviving examples of his work, Terral exhibited widely during his lifetime. Beginning in 1839, Terral was featured in at least 8 Salons at the Musée du Louvre. Catherine herself is believed to have been an artista pittura, although very little is known of her today.

In this series of daguerreotypes, Terral is depicted in three phases of his career. Reading the series from left to right, in the first plate he is the rakish young artist studying painting; in the second plate he is the art historian; and in the third plate he is the painter and copyist. Catherine Porion is also shown three times; touchingly, one of the photographs shows her seated and devotedly holding a portrait of her artist husband.
—Courtesy of Sotheby's

Stanley B. Burns, Mirror Mirror: The Burns Collection Daguerreotypes (New York: The Burns Archive Press, 2012), pls. 147-49
Stanley B. Burns, Forgotten Marriage: The Painted Tintype & The Decorative Frame, 1860-1910: A Lost Chapter in American Portraiture (New York: The Burns Archive Press, 1995), p. 12 (detail)

Acquired from Brigitte & Marc Pagneux, Peintures - Sculptures - Photographies du XIX Siècle, Paris, 1991