• Whitman, Walt. (1819–1892) [Sarony, Napoleon. (1812–1896)]: Signed Sarony Cabinet Photograph

Whitman, Walt. (1819–1892) [Sarony, Napoleon. (1812–1896)]: Signed Sarony Cabinet Photograph

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Original cabinet photograph, ca. 1878, of the great American poet by Napoleon Sarony, the pre-eminent New York photographer of his day and one of the city's favourite eccentrics. Whitman is shown in a striking quarter-turn bust portrait looking out towards the right, his face framed by his trademark hat and beard, and has boldly signed "Walt Whitman / 1891" in black ink.  Edges lightly nicked, a few small stains and light surface impressions, else fine. 10.8 x 16.5 cm; 4.25 x 6.5 inches.

The poet was "the most photographed writer who died before the advent of truly portable and amateur photography in the 1890s.  He sat for many of the century's best-known photographers, including...Napoleon Sarony.  Sarony's gallery was the most famous of the 300 photographic studios in New York City in the 1870s...His cabinet card portraits became immensely popular, the nineteenth-century equivalent to baseball cards or fan magazines. He was one of the photographers who helped create the modern concept of celebrity, in effect marketing the faces of famous people so that others could see them in such detail that they felt they knew them personally....Whitman, who made Sarony's catalogue int he late 1870s, was, in some ways and for many people, more recognizable for his striking bearded visage, now familiar to thousands through the sales of cabinet-card images, than he was for his poetry.  He was one of our first celebrity writers, made easily recognizable by his photographs."  (Ed Folsom, "A Companion to Walt Whitman" (ed. Kummings), p. 284)

When Oscar Wilde made a pilgrimage to visit the poet in Camden, NJ in 1882, Whitman gave him of a photograph of himself - quite possibly of the present image - and in return, Wilde promised to send him a copy of the photograph Sarony had just taken of him.