Examination of a Le Gray Picture from Sirot collection:
The salt paper print represent the portrait of a young man in a dark coat, his feet have been cropped. The print presents some foxing. A wet stamp precise: «Gustave Le Gray».
The verso shows a few pencil inscriptions «Portrait de Gustave Le Gray par Lui-même», «Catalogue Un Siècle de vision nouvelle n°2», «premier cachet de Gustave Le Gray», «Ancienne collection Sirot, A.J.».
Georges Sirot is an important name for photography collectors and Un siècle de vision nouvelle is a very early exhibition catalogue (organized by Jean Adhémar in BNF, 1955). A.J. are the initials of André Jammes. Sirot, Adhémar, Jammes, three names which are three good reasons to examine more precisely the rather modest photographic portrait.
Method, listing disproving/supporting evidence
One exclusive piece of disproving or supporting evidence would be enough to conclude the examination. But such decisive evidence is not common in the field of early photography.
We could prove the provenance and interview André Jammes about the portrait, its identification in pencil by Sirot, and its presence in the 1955 exhibition, so we can accept that Sirot, Adhémar and Jammes considered the portrait as being a self portrait of Le Gray. We could also trace precisely its provenance and verify it was never presented to the public since 1955 nor never reproduced.
Nevertheless, this young man looks quite different from the best known portraits of Le Gray.
Our method was to look for all known portraits of Gustave Le Gray on paper and then to list the points to check and propose as disproving/supporting evidences :
— The eyes
— The eyebrows
— The ears
— The hair and haircut
— The cloths
— The weight and height
We found one oil painting, thirteen photographic portraits (1-13), and two less precise silhouettes on paper (14-15), they are presented in chronological order afer a timeline of Gustave Le Gray’s adresses.
We also listed all friends and students of Gustave Le Gray, searching if one of them could match better than GLG with the model.