The price of photography in the 19th century. Order a portrait from an artist or take a photo?


Outside the nineteenth century, which can be called an enlightened time. Are born before our eyes

new economic relations, merchants and manufacturersfactories are being built, cities are getting a new impetus in development, their growth in many countries can be called uncontrolled. Not only economic relations in society are changing, for the first time money appears in new social groups, and their representatives become customers of services and goods that were previously available only to the aristocracy. For example, artists receive commissions for paintings from the bourgeoisie and merchants, those who have earned their money from trade. We can say that the portrait, as a reflection of the status of the owner, is gaining new audiences, the movement of this product from top to bottom begins. But the expansion of the audience is not due to a decrease in the cost of portraits, but due to the emergence of money from new social groups, which is superimposed on the need not only to spend it, but to confirm their social status. At the end of the century, a trend that appeared earlier led to the emergence of patrons and merchant dynasties, collecting works of art. Pavel Tretyakov, Savva Mamontov, Savva Morozov and dozens of other names are people who created huge collections of art and literally supported artists all over Europe, not just in Russia. The Tretyakov Gallery remains an amazing collection of paintings, it can easily compete with any world museum, and for this we need to thank those same merchant patrons.

An exhibition of portraits was held in the St. Petersburg Manege"Mirror". Many merchant portraits, both family and single. Svetlana Zenina, curator of the exhibition, says: “Officers, military men, provincial clergy, merchants with letters and merchants' wives in shawls, provincial noblewomen in caps, children and respectable old people passed in front of the tempting mirror of painting. Their “reflections” multiplied and remained in homes, were present in the lives of new generations, time separates them and collects them again - within the walls of museums or at exhibitions. Getting into a new reality, in other contexts, they still attract the eye to remain in memory for a long time.

From the exhibition description:“At the beginning of the 19th century, almost every city has its own artist, almost every wealthy house has a portrait chronicle of the family. Merchants, poor nobles, even the clergy turn to a local portrait painter, a kind of artisan, who diligently embodies their idea of ​​\u200b\u200bhimself.

I wandered around the exhibition and caught myself thinking thatportraits are sometimes formal, presenting a person as majestic, emphasizing his dignity. There are no playful portraits, no reflection of a real person and his essence - it is always a kind of image that is built according to the wishes of the customer. In the middle of the 19th century, photography was massively distributed, at first it was daguerreotypes. It became interesting for me to compare the cost of making a portrait by an artist and the price of a photograph. I decided to study the issue in order to understand to whom the portraits were available and whether there was then economic competition between these two types of depiction of people.

The best-documented spending of Russianemperors, let's look at the portrait of Zhukovsky, painted by Karl Bryullov in 1838. The artist has already received the nickname "The Great Charles", behind the monumental canvas "The Last Day of Pompeii", for which Anatoly Demidov paid 40 thousand francs. Bryullov's works were valued and were very expensive, for example, a portrait of Zhukovsky was sold at an auction, the amount was 2,500 rubles. The price was explained by the need to redeem a serf from the landowner, usually a free one cost 1,000 rubles. The landowner Pavel Engelhardt broke the price, as he had previously sent his serf to study painting so that he would paint family portraits. Then such serf artists were called painters. It is curious that we know this "painter" as a poet, he was Taras Shevchenko. The prohibitively high cost was determined by the interest in the fate of the serf of many famous people, including the sovereign. And the landlord got his money.


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But for us it is important how much the paintings cost widelycommon, not having a special artistic value. This moment can be estimated based on the cost of canvas and paints - on average, the cost of a portrait of a typical size rested on 10-15 rubles without a frame, which was taken into account separately.

The cost of renting an apartment in St. Petersburgwas about five rubles a month. In 1863, Repin came to St. Petersburg to enter the Academy of Arts, this is what he wrote: “My bread cost three kopecks, and tea sixty kopecks per pound ... “That's what you can eat,” I thought ... My fear of the possibility of starvation departed." Repin paid 5.5 rubles a month for an apartment, it was a small attic on Vasilyevsky Island.

During the nineteenth century the costportraits changed, but we can safely say that an ordinary portrait cost at least twenty rubles. In the 1850s, a peasant received about 25-30 kopecks a day from day labor. The worker was in better conditions, his salary was about a ruble a day. That is, it turns out that workers could earn about 20-25 rubles a month, but subject to deductions per year, the amount was about 200 rubles. Perhaps this is the best way to explain why not only peasants and workers could not order their portrait, but also many philistines did not have the economic opportunity to do so. The pleasure was too expensive.

An advertisement placed in a newspaper in 1850photographer Abadi, reported the following: “Takes portraits daily, from 9 to 4 pm. The price for a portrait of ordinary size from one or two faces, with or without paint, is from 3 to 5 rubles. ser.".

At that time, the value of banknotes and silver was stronglywas different, the rate was floating (crap as the word appeared just then, but it didn’t mean at all what you might think, but the exchange rate of the ruble, or crap). But conditionally, we can assume that the rate was approximately as follows, for one silver ruble they gave four rubles in banknotes. It turns out that the cost of a daguerreotype ranged from 12 to 20 rubles! What can be safely considered comparable to the portrait of that time cost.

The advent of photo paper, a change in technicalprocess reduced the cost of portrait photography, by 1865 the price of a photograph ranged from 3 to 5 rubles, but not in silver! Portraits of famous people appear in wide sale, they are popular and create a new niche in the market. Let's read the announcement of that time, it was given by the photographer Panov in 1867: “A photographic portrait of Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev, taken when he was in Russia in March of the present 1867, went on sale. This portrait caused the following remark by I.S. Turgenev: “Of all my photographic portraits, I did not have more artistic and expressive than this.” These words give the photograph courage and a certain right to draw the attention of Messrs. admirers of the literary talent of Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev to the fact that the photograph contains his portraits of various sizes at the following prices: a large portrait on Bristol paper - 5 rubles, a medium size - 2 rubles, a visiting card - 50 kopecks. Here you can also get portraits and cards of other writers, artists and generally famous personalities.

Russia has always been distinguished by a high level of prices, up torevolution, the average wages of workers were higher than in most countries of the world. I was surprised to discover this fact, it completely contradicted the propaganda of the times of the USSR about the world of the oppressed. I am sure that there was some oppression, but everything was not as gloomy as it was presented to us in history lessons.

Found a curious cost studyvarious photographs in Australia, thought that it would complement our research well. For example, in 1845 a daguerreotype cost 21 shillings, which was a low cost - about the same as a worker's week's work. Please note that in Russia the rates of that time were completely different. Then ambrotype appeared, the process became cheaper, a picture in 1865 already cost half as much - about 10 shillings. These photographs were often hand-coloured.

In the 1860s, the colloidal process appeared, it is stillreduced the cost of creating photographs more, and most importantly, it became possible to print many copies. Popularity gained "business cards", small photographic portraits, which were left to friends and relatives. They sold a set of such photographs inexpensively - 12 shillings for 12 prints. Photography became popular.

The entire nineteenth century is too big forto compare portraiture and photography, but it can be argued that by the beginning of the 20th century it was photography that began to supplant portraits, since its cost was steadily declining, while the price of portraits remained high - here is the cost of canvas, paints, and the artist’s labor, and the need for long-term training. For photography, such obstacles simply did not exist, and the price of prints was constantly falling. But the breakthrough in photography still occurred when it became accessible entertainment for the masses, in many ways George Eastman had a hand in this, in the links you will find articles about this.

The conclusion we can draw is simple:in the nineteenth century, photography and painting existed in parallel, initially there was no sharp competition between them, despite the controversy in society, when it was argued that artists would die out, they would be replaced by photographers. This did not happen, moreover, for a long time photography was not considered art as such, decades passed before it began to be perceived as such. It is curious that many artists in the second half of the 19th century found a part-time job with photographers - they retouched pictures, painted them.

People who lived in the 19th century must have had manyfree funds to afford both a portrait and a photographic card. The fall in prices for photography expanded the list of those who could afford a photograph, but this became a widespread phenomenon only at the beginning of the 20th century. Remember family photo albums, you probably have few photos from the beginning of the twentieth century in them, most of the first photos date back to the thirties, perhaps forties.

The photo example illustrates well thattechnology always wins over manual labor, at least in terms of cost, and as technology advances, it becomes available to literally everyone. I leave out the artistic perception, the way we evaluate paintings and photographs. But I can say that today no one will argue that photography can be the same art as painting.

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