Collection anthropologique du Muséum de Paris : ethnographic portraits by Jacques-Philippe Potteau
thesisposted on 08.06.2021, 09:20 by Juli Sheptytsky-Zäll
Jacques-Philippe Potteau, a lesser known photographer and naturalist in nineteenth-century France, produced a series of ethnographic portraits under the title "Collection Anthropologique du Museum de Paris" for the Muséum d'Histoire naturelle in Paris, between 1860-1869. This paper investigates a representative set of the series, found at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which has been used as a source of information for looking at the photographer's mode and scope of production. These ethnographic portraits, made according to conventions of commercial studio portraiture in Second Empire France, were used for the study and classification of man and displayed as specimens in the Anthropology Collection at the Muséum. By looking at the variation between the most formal and the most sterile compositions, the various presentation methods and the labels as a new source of information, Potteau is identified as a photographer who produced work more independently than previously thought.