The photographic charts in this album illustrate the seemingly infinite variety of physical characteristics that make up an individual’s face, ranging from a general profile and the shape of the forehead and hairline to the size, contours, and details of the ears, nose, lips, and eyebrows. Alphonse Bertillon, director of the Paris Police Department, photographed and assembled these images to accompany a course he developed to train his agents to observe subjects more closely and describe them more accurately.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Alphonse Bertillon, French, 1853–1914
Cours théorique de signalement descriptif (portrait parlé) en vingt leçons, exercices pratiques de reconnaissances d’identité
Course on the Theory of Individual Description (Spoken Portrait) in Twenty Lessons, Practical Exercises of Identity Recognition
c. 1900
Gelatin silver prints
Sheet: 11 13/16 × 6 11/16 in. (30 × 17 cm) Overall: 12 5/8 × 8 7/16 × 1/4 in. (32.1 × 21.4 × 0.7 cm)
Credit Line

Museum purchase

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number
Books & Manuscripts

[Ader Nordmann, Paris, Photographies & Livres de Photographies, November 12, 2016, 52 (illus.), lot 81]; purchased by MFAH, 2016.