We know that the photographer Philibert Perraud left France to move to Rome around 1844. There he produced several daguerreotypes featuring groups of young artists of different nationalities who were staying in the Eternal City. Although the exact location of the shot is unknown, this one is identical to the group of plates bearing the photographer's signature: from the three known to have been taken on that day, we can recognise the gaunt tree on the left and the Louis XVI chair. It was certainly around 1846, or at the beginning of 1847, that Perraud took this group of artists and students from the Médici Villa, making it one of the earliest group photographs.
Although the identity of the models posing before the camera remains uncertain, the young man standing at the back may be the architect and photographer Alfred Normand (1822-1909), and the second figure from the right in the second row may be Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889).
This photograph is a moving testimony of artistic life in Rome in the mid-nineteenth century. It highlights the strong links that then existed between artists, painters, sculptors, architects and photographers. The naturalness and vivacity of the poses clearly reveals Perraud's ability to overcome the difficulties of long exposure times and to produce an impressive group portrait in the mid 1840s.