The initial impulse behind this nude study was almost certainly to function in the service of art. Photographs of nudes frequently served as substitutes for the live model in the medium’s early days, but the scale and rendering here set this picture apart from other “studies for artists.” Here, a serendipitous technical flaw—perhaps the result of sensitizing the collodion-coated glass plates with too cold a silver solution—created a flowing pattern through which one views the figure. Whereas most photographers of the period would have wiped their plates clean and started over, this artist saw that, like a veil of time or memory, the surface pattern that seems to separate the viewer from the figure also removes the figure from the realm of the merely academic or utilitarian and places him instead in the world of art and poetry. He seems to radiate energy, amplifying the dynamic effect of the pose. In brazenly displaying the visible traces of its creation and in reveling in the effects of technical flaws and incompleteness, this nude appeals especially to a contemporary eye. The model, in a heroic pose reminiscent of a risen Christ or the ecstatic witness of a miracle, summons references to the past while being presented in a strikingly modern way, without any equivalent among other 19th-century studies for artists.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Attributed to the circle of Pierre-Charles Simart, French, 1806–1857
[Standing Male Nude]
c. 1856
Salted paper print from an enlarged glass negative
Image: 15 3/8 × 11 1/4 in. (39.1 × 28.6 cm) Sheet: 15 3/8 × 11 1/4 in. (39 × 28.5 cm) Mount: 18 9/16 × 15 3/16 in. (47.1 × 38.6 cm) Mat: 28 × 22 in. (71.1 × 55.9 cm)
Credit Line

Museum purchase funded by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number

Albert Gilles, Paris; André and Marie-Thérèse Jammes Collection, Paris, 1950s (complete album); [sold Sotheby’s, Paris, March 21, 2002, lot 113 (complete album)]; Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg, Los Alamos, New Mexico (complete album); [Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, and Hans P. Kraus Jr., Inc, New York], 2004 (complete album); purchased by MFAH, 2014.