Musée d'Orsay: Anonymous Sleeping Shepherdess

Sleeping Shepherdess

Sleeping Shepherdess
Sleeping Shepherdess
Circa 1865
Albumen print from a wet collodion glass negative
H. 11; W. 17cm
© Musée d'Orsay, dist RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

Bergère endormie [Sleeping Shepherdess]

The name of this photographer of rural scenes has not yet been discovered. He appears to have been published exclusively by Adolphe Giraudon, a specialist in reproductions or, as in this case, in providing documents for artists. During the 1870s, Millet and the Barbizon School had made this sort of subject very popular with painters, and publishers lost no time in providing them with photographs of models, which themselves were inspired by pictorial examples: shepherdess, girl haymaking, peasant and plough, sheep, farms, etc.

Although this photographer remains anonymous, he reveals a very personal poetic grace in his work. Giraudon no doubt bought up and published the photographs of an earlier photographer. Indeed, the technique employed – the wet collodion glass negative, whose transparency made it possible to achieve delightful, rich effects of light – was outmoded by 1875, when Giraudon opened his workshop.
The Musée d'Orsay has several prints by the same artist, from the collection of the painter Théophile Chauvel. In these, one can see peasant women carrying bundles of wood or sitting in the hay, but this shepherdess, stretched out lazily on the grass next to her sheep, brings a note of discreet sensuality, rare in these country scenes.

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