When William Henry Fox Talbot first announced his process for paper photography in 1839, the process required exposures too long to be practical for portraiture; his new art was better suited to subjects that did not move—landscape, architecture, or still life. Talbot’s plaster cast of a Hellenistic marble bust of Achilles’s comrade Patroclus provided an animated and expressive substitute for the live model, and he photographed it more than forty-five times between 1839 and 1843, when this version was made. This particular print was once plate 17 in a copy of Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature, the first photographically illustrated book, published in parts between 1844 and 1846. Although Talbot’s improved process was by then capable of recording portraits, he included none in his volume, but instead chose two photographs of this plaster bust.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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William Henry Fox Talbot, British, 1800–1877
Bust of Patroclus
August 9, 1843
Salted paper print from paper negative
Image: 5 3/4 × 5 5/8 in. (14.6 × 14.2 cm) Sheet: 5 3/4 × 5 5/8 in. (14.6 × 14.3 cm) Mount: 12 1/4 × 9 3/4 in. (31.1 × 24.8 cm)
Credit Line

Gift of Mike and Mickey Marvins

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number

[Daniel Wolf Gallery, New York]; [Cronin Gallery, Houston]; purchased by Michael Marvins and Michele Marvins, Houston, 1970s; given to MFAH, 2015.