Voyage d’exploration à la mer Morte, à Petra et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain par M. Le Duc de Luynes, 1864. 

Printed 1874–76. 

Proof set of 64 héliogravures (photogravures), each image approx. 7⅝ x 10 inches (19.3 x 25.4 cm.) on sheet 14⅜ x 20 inches (36.5 x 50.8 cm.), each with printed credit ‘PHOTOGRAVURE sur Acier par CH. NEGRE’ below image, numbered, titled and dated in pencil in margin; 5 duplicate photogravures (of which 4 sheets are trimmed); and 15 albumen prints by Vignes, corresponding with plates 5, 12, 19, 22 (two copies), 23, 25b, 28, 30, 43, 44, 46, 50, 57 and 62; thirteen mounted on card, nine titled in pencil, two with labels ‘Collection Marguerite Milhau Paris’; with two photogravures from the same portrait of the duc de Luynes, one titled and dated in pencil ‘M. Le Duc Albert de Luynes 1864’ and annotated ‘1ère’ on recto, with ‘c’est M. L. Vignes Photographe de M. Le Duc Albert de Luynes, 1864, qui a tiré le cliché de Ch. Nègre’ in pencil on verso, the other with printed credit ‘PHOTOGRAVURE sur Acier par CH. NEGRE’ below image and title ‘Duc de Luynes’ in pencil (staining to right margin); with ink manuscript label in Nègre’s hand ‘Gravures Héliographiques Ch. Nègre. Voyage du Duc de Luynes à la Mer Morte à Petra et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain. Chaque planche porte le nom de la Vue qu’elle reproduit’ laid down on paper, a second sheet, also in his hand, with the title of the published work.

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A fine set of the photogravures for which Nègre was justly celebrated, from the collection of Marie-Thérèse and André Jammes.  The titles and plate numbers are added in pencil, likely by the author or publisher (Arthus Bertrand, Paris, 1874-76).  The albumen prints, from the original negatives from the same series, were added by Jammes, and afford the opportunity of a direct comparison.  ‘There were two voyages of exploration, one undertaken by the duc de Luynes to map and study the Dead Sea, the other by Charles Nègre, to perfect a photomechanical printing process, that would permanently preserve the full tonal range and nuances of a photograph…. From 1854 until 1867 Nègre dedicated himself to the perfection of an exquisite process that he termed héliogravure. The result was a printing plate capable of reproducing “the entire gradation of tones, from the white of the paper to the strongest black, maintaining the precision and the fine detail of the photographic print,” as he stated at a scientific congress.’ (Stuhlmann, in Imagining Paradise, p.105). 

In 1856, the duc de Luynes, whose primary interest was in publishing photographic evidence in a manner that would prove permanent, announced a prize of 8,000 francs for the best photomechanical reproductions.  It was not until nine years later that he commissioned Nègre to make the plates for his own planned publication.  ‘Nègre, a painstaking craftsman, lavished his skill upon the production of the plates, transforming the dull photographs into evocative images of great poetry. He considered this series his best achievement and submitted it to the jury…’ (Stuhlmann, p.105). 

‘Ultimately foiled by his own artistry, [Nègre] was not awarded the Duke de Luynes’ renowned prize … because none of the judges believed that anyone but Nègre himself could produce such beautiful photo-engraved plates.’ (Jammes, Art of French Calotype, p. 222). 

Foster et al., Imagining Paradise, p. 105.