In the second half of the nineteenth century, artists frequently worked from photographs instead of live models. Common enough for painting, this practice seems to have been less frequent for sculpture, perhaps because of the difficulty of transposing a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional object.
Carabin was an exception to this rule. Between 1890 and 1914, he produced over six hundred prints, mainly female nudes, which provided a stock of original attitudes and postures for his work as a sculptor. In this set, the originality of the poses and attitudes contrasts sharply with the sort of photographs customarily produced for artists. But these prints astonish us today mainly for their truth and directness. Although subtle hazy effects bring some of them close to a pictorialist aesthetic, most are brightly lit, with the model in unambiguous poses, a far remove from any attempt at idealisation or aestheticism. In that, they are several years ahead of certain experiments in the representation of the body carried out by photographers between the two wars.
The remarkable set that this picture comes from has a curious history. In 1955, Carabin's daughter gave it to Le Corbusier, who had known the sculptor, and the architect kept it until his death. He even made drawings from some of these photographs. Carabin's prints now provide outstanding proof of the relationship between photography and sculpture in the nineteenth century.