A daguerreotype of the Roman forum from 1842

A kind correspondent has drawn my attention to an article in the New York Times, on an exhibition of daguerreotypes.  These were early photographs which possessed a 3-D quality hard to reproduce today.  The Metropolitan Museum in New York possesses a collection taken by Frenchman Girault de Prangey (1804-1892).  They were all taken in 1842, shortly after Daguerre invented photography, and must be some of the first photographs of everything they depict.  All are of great value.  For instance they include a photograph of the old palace of the Tuileries, destroyed in 1870.

The image that concerns us here is possibly the first photograph of what it depicts.  It’s the Roman forum, viewed from the Palatine hill.  Is that the Arch of Septimus Severus there in centre right?  I wish we had the same view in a modern photograph, for comparison!  (I looked but was unsuccessful).

Here it is:

Marvelous to see this!  Of course this is Papal Rome.  The Victor Emmanuel monument has yet to be built.  The demolitions of Mussolini have yet to take place.

The NYT article is well worth a read.

UPDATE:  A kind correspondent has pointed out that the NY Times has printed the image back to front!  Flipped it looks like this:

with the ramp up to the capitoline in the left.  He also sent in a Google maps view:

My mistake!


6 thoughts on “A daguerreotype of the Roman forum from 1842

  1. Roger
    Use Google Maps and Google Earth to create a modern view from the same vantage point on Palatine Hill.

  2. I just kicked myself, the image is a daguerreotype, it probably needs to be flipped if you want to match it to a modern view.

  3. Not so… daguerreotypes were not negatives. There were none with that technology.

    I’m still awed that a photograph exists of the Duke of Wellington – a daguerreotype.

  4. I found half of the old daguerreotype, snapped lower down on the hill. The html address is about the size of the photo.


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