images obtained in the camera
obscura using the process invented by Niepce, since his death in
images was obtained by the most sophisticated form of the invention of
Niepce that he described in 1829, i.e. on silver
plated copper plate with the process of inversion of the
asphalt image by the action of iodine vapors.
this first success, it was possible for the first time :
to determine the photosensitivity of the system (few 10-6
ISO) and hence of the exposure time
(3 days under the
sunlight with an aperture of the lens of f/4).
demonstrate the absence of any whitening of the asphalt under the
action of light.
determine the resolution of the image (102 pairs of lines per
that the process gives black and white images with a good gradation of
the possibility to produce on pewter
(Sn), bitumen images
which can be seen as negative or positive depending on the
orientation of the light.
taking into account one sentence written by Niepce in his "Notice sur
l'Heliographie" : suggestion
that Niepce could have obtained such kind
of images (catalog of the exhibition at the
Nicéphore Niépce Museum, published on 15 th
Images on glass and on lithographic stones (limestone) which exhibit
the same phenomena
Heliograph made in a camera obscura
the helioengraving process
the process invented by Niépce
etched with acid in copper or pewter (Sn) plates
• Prints of these images on paper
- =>These very first results have
been presented at the Symposium for 150th anniversary of the birth of
photography at Vevey (Switzerland) in july 1989
- =>The images have been exhibited
in October-November 1989 at the Archives Nationales in Paris and then
Nicephore Niepce Museum in Chalon-sur-Saône from 15th
december 1989 to 15 th march 1990. These heliographs are still in the
archives of this museum.
Reconstruction of the
helioengraving process with the techniques
described by Niepce as : "peindre et graver tour à
paint and to etch alternatively)
of the world's first photograph made by Niépce, at the Harry
Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRHRC) at
the University of Texas - AUSTIN
USA (July 1990)
First determination of the nature of this image : it is a
bitumen image made
on pewter (Sn). The bitumen used
Niépce is still onto the pewter
plate. This confirms
the suggestion we
proposed in 1989 and hence our good interpretation of the "Notice sur
Due to an underexposure of the image in the
camera obscura the bitumen varnish is completely eliminated in the dark
areas but also
partially dissolved even in the most intense areas. It
is known that in the engraved images on metal, this dissolution can
lead to a discontinuous structure of the remaining varnish
"sablé", i.e. "sand effect", by
A. Lemaître, the engraver
who collaborated with Niépce (published in 1990 and 1999).
these conditions the exposure lasts 2 days under the sunlight.
world's photograph as reproduced
Kodak in 1952
this it has been possible to date the "View from the window at Gras" as
made by Niépce during summer 1827 and not in 1826 as it was
The image made by Niepce as it was in 1952
Image made by J.L. Marignier
Investigations in the now closed asphalt mines
where Niépce had purchased the
• Extraction of the
bitumen from 15 kilograms of bituminous ore and production of
: Discovery at the Musée du Cinéma in Paris of an
varnished drawing on
paper used by Niépce
It represents the image which can be seen on the plate called "Ruins of
an Abbey" now preserved at National Media Museum, Bradford, UK. This
drawing covered with a varnish to make the paper translucent is
absolutely identical to an engraving
preserved at The George Eastman
House on which one can read that it is a reproduction of an painting
from Daguerre by
the engraver G. Maile and that the true titled is "Un
clair de Lune", i.e. "Moonlight". Details and dimensions of this
drawing corresponds exactly to the image on the plate in UK and
this leads to the
conclusion that this varnished drawing was reproduced
Niepce by contact printing and not with a camera obscura (published in
1999, ed. Belin p. 494), which seems obvious because Niépce
would not have varnished it.
This photograph shows the engraving preserved at the George
Eastman House (Rochester NY USA). This
is an engraving on which one can read "Dessiné par Daguerre"
et "Gravé par G. Maile", dimensions and details
are identical to the drawing in Paris and to the plate in England (see
after for the comparison)
1997 at the Royal Photographic Society, Bath,
UK. Observations of the three plates
shown by Niepce in England in 1827
Observation of the image : "Ruins of an Abbey", which is the
reproduction of the "Un Clair de Lune", gives rise to some questions
about the plate and the process used. The aspect is the reverse of the
one expected for an engraved image by Niepce's process. Dark areas are
very naked polished metal while the area of intense light are matte.
While the metal is a white bright one it is not sure that it is a
pewter (Sn) plate. In 1999 (Ed. Belin), I suggested to perform analysis
of the metal and of the different areas.
Ruins of an
Abbey : the plate preserved in England
1999, J.L. Marignier showed in his book, the connection between the
engraving in Rochester, the plate in England, and the drawing on paper
he discovered at the Musée du Cinéma in Paris
between the drawing discovered at the Musée du
(Paris) and the plate in Bradford museum (on the drawing,
the pinhole on the top left angle which is reproduced on the pewter
extraction of the chemical components of the bitumen.
• Study of the
photosensitivity of the different components.
Study of the effect of the concentration, the temperature during the
dissolution, the stirring during the
temperature of drying, the ageing of the solution, the thickness of the
• Study of the effect of the reflectivity of the base.
• Determination of the spectral sensitivity of the bitumen
1992 to 2004
Re-discovery of the
unknown photographic process using the residue of
the distillation of oil of lavender
Analysis of the letters between Niepce and Daguerre leads to the
conclusion that this process was invented by Niépce and
Daguerre together during summer 1832.
Identification of this process as the one called "PHYSAUTOTYPE" by
Niépce and Daguerre in their
correspondence in 1832.
1993, discovery that the same process can be implemented also with
rosin and a lot of aromatic compounds.
of the image called "La Table Servie" as a physautotype made by Niepce
in 1832 - 1833
: Discovery in the travel diary of James David Forbes
in 1839 that he was a witness of the image called " La table
servie" which he saw in the hands of the son of Niépce,
Isidore Niépce in Paris. This testimony leads to attribute
without no doubt this image to Niepce. And a careful analysis led to
conclude that this picture was taken using the physautotype process.
• 2003 : Discovery of
another witness of the image of " La table
servie", the russian academician Joseph Hamel.
: reconstitution of the " Table
servie" in Niépce's garden at Saint-Loup-de-Varennes by
the physautotype process.
of Niepce's Table
: reproduction published in 1902 of Niepce's plate (At
day, the plate is lost) . Right : Physautotype made by J.L. Marignier
and M. Lourseau with a camera obscura of the reconstituted table of
Niépce (August 2004)
- Processes using powders
that under the influence of Daguerre, two processes have been derived
from the heliographic process and from the physautotype process.
example of images obtained by contact printing on powders spread on
metal. Left : powder of bitumen on silver. Right : powder of colophony
1995 to 2004
THE UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS AND
PROCESSES ACHIEVED BY NIEPCE FROM 1816 TO 1820
Reconstruction of the experiments
performed by Niepce before the
invention of the bitumen
Images made by Niépce in 1816,using the
silver chloride precipitate, and called
by him : retinas.
Images made with iron chloride.
Images made with guaiacuum resin.
1992 to 2004
VIRTUAL RECONSTRUCTION OF
Reconstruction with a computer of Niepce's estate as it was in
Identification of the window from where was taken the world's first
Determination of the position of the camera obcura.
Determination of the focal distance of the lens used.
Identification of the details of the image.
• Calculations indicate that,
since 1827, the window has been shifted toward the west by 70 cm.
of these results in
In december 1999, investigations around the window in
house confirm that it has been shifted since the time of Niepce and
the shift is exactly of 70 cm. (results
presented in the movie "Restoration of Niépce's house" in
presented in the movie "Restoration of Niépce's house"
Virtual reconstruction of the
"View from the window at Gras"
Calculation with computer of the shadows
of the landscape
at every hours of the day for any day of the year.
Reconstitution by computer of the world's first photograph, by
calculating the accumulated intensity of the light produced during one day by the image
projected inside the camera obscura on the plate.
Determination of the period of the year (around the 15th of July) where
this picture was made in 1827.
Results presented at the
Symposium on the world's first photograph at the Harry Ransom Humanities
Researches Center - Austin - Texas in November 2003.