Louis Pierson, Countess de Castiglione, c. 1860
Countess de Castiglione, c. 1860
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
This photograph is a work from the French photographer, Louis Pierson. It’s a vertically compositional portrait, and was taken in black and white. Countess de Castiglione, the female in this photograph, was a famous celebrity member in French upper class in the mid 19th century. The most well known rumor probably would be that she was a mistress of the French emperor, Napoleon III.
Compare to other early portraitures taken in the mid 19th century in Europe, this portrait of Countess de Castiglione obviously shows a totally different atmosphere. The gesture of the woman, though sitting still, does not face straight forward to the camera. She is about 45 degree left side turned, and only her right eye facing to the camera based on the photograph we see here.
She doesn’t look stiff at all. Her body gesture tells us that and also her face expression. The image produces a sense of mystery, or a kind of playful spirit. If there is anything that makes this photograph become an important piece in the history of photography, it must be the pose that she uses something to cover most of her face but her right eye. The eye, looking up to the camera, seems to be hiding something and shows a powerful strength to the viewers.
The focal point is very concentrate on her eye and her right hand, which holding the viewfinder like object. Around the focal point, we can also discover her hair with different colors and her fancy clothing’s and all the accessories. While other parts of her body are almost blurred into the dark background. However, there is a halo light area sets behind her head on the background, which enhances the mysterious effects even more and attracts people’s attentions to her eye. The halo, the hole of the viewfinder, and the eyeball also produce a repetition of circle pattern. They give the image a magical moment and look really fascinating.