L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, November 3, 2017

A fine and self-possessed young fellow - two daguerreotypes by Les Frères Zwerner, circa 1848

The swelling market for the new "miracle" of photography having quickly spread north to Russia, the brothers Wilhelm Carl and Friedrich Wilhelm Zwerner set up shop in St. Petersburg in the 1840s. It appears that, soon after, they also opened a studio in Moscow. Other than that, I've been unable to find any information on the brothers or their business. The subject of these two photographs is unknown, but there is conjecture that it is actually one of the brothers. Such a lavishly relaxed pose would be highly unusual for a paying sitter. Because of the formality expected in a portrait of the day, photographic or otherwise and, even more so, because of the extended posing time required for the taking of a daguerreotype. But a trained professional, with intimate knowledge of the technique's possibilities and limitations, and with no need to please a client, might just adopt such rakish poses. Whoever he is, these two images tell us something of the character of the fellow - much more than we can find in most of the rigid images taken of his contemporaries - allowing us to write in our idea of who we think this fashionably attired and well-groomed young man might have been. Handsome, sharp-witted, dashing - and perhaps a little dangerous...?   


  1. Loving the fit and finish of those jackets!

  2. I love your sleuthing skills, Stephen. Yes, he's a dangerous one, the best kind!