Daguerre in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes

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Daguerre’s four stays at Saint-Loup-de-Varennes

Niépce and Daguerre sign their contract.
Niépce and Daguerre sign their contract.

Daguerrre stayed four times at Nicéphore Niépce’s house in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes. The first time in December 1829 for the signature of their partnership contract. How many days did he stay in the Gras estate? Niépce made a demonstration of his Judea bitumen process and Daguerre showed his phosphorescent images technique, as related by Isidore below:

On the occasion of the signing of the partnership contract, M.Daguerre came to stay at M. Niépce’s home, which was situated in his country house in the Gras near Châlon-sur -Saone; the inventor of the Diorama showed us a little cardboard box holding a yellowish powder that was calcined baryte sulfate: this powder, if hit by a ray of light, would keep for a while a phosphorescent property that self-destructed gradually and ended up by vanishing completely in the dark. It was what we call Bologna phosphorus.

In May 1830, Daguerre wrote to Niépce: “If you promise to treat me without fuss and ceremony, I would be delighted to spend a week with you; this way I will avoid you the burden of travelling that is a pleasure for me, and I shall bring you a camera and anything that could be useful to our operations.

Niepce et Daguerre,
Niépce and Daguerre: “The benefactors of humanity”.

Daguerre went back to Saint-Loup-de-Varennes in June 1830. Niépce tells in a letter to his cousin Curley, in August 1830: “M. Daguerre {…} came to spend a fortnight in June. During this half-month, we worked constantly from morning to night; but even though we obtained important improvements to my processes, we have not yet any results on speed, which would allow us to make better use of the camera that M. Daguerre brought me.” Besides the camera obscura, we know that Daguerre brought Niépce also some lavender oil distillation residue.

The third stay of Daguerre’s in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes took place in the summer of 1832. It is the time period during which the two men attuned the Physautotype process.

A few months later, in November 1832, Daguerre came back to the Gras estate a last time. The two partners worked again to improve the physautotype process, dipping the prints produced with the camera obscura into the water drawn from Niépce’s well, before developing the images.