The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

“What manner o’ thing is your crocodile?”: January 2016

This month’s mystery raises the question of illustration technique, taking a portrait of Céline Celeste as Katherine in Shakespeare’s Henry V as an example. What makes this picture unusual, technically speaking?

Full length portrait of 19th-century actress in costume

Please share your thoughts, guesses, New Year’s greetings, etc.,  using the “Leave a reply” box at the end of this post. Check back next week for the full story.


  • …It’s an engraving where the portrait (as opposed to the background) was made from a photograph/daguerreotype?

  • I agree with Jeff. The Hands and face are rendered in a markedly tonal style. By contrast, the rest of the picture conveys tone by different textures of lines. This supports the photograph hypothesis.
    I say the engraving is a *recycled* engraving. The line engraving was probably made at an earlier date. It carried the portrait of another actress. Sometime in the middle 19th Century, the features of the original actress were erased, and replaced with Madame Celeste. The erasure did not necessarily have to be done on the original copperplate. The “engraving” we now see may very well be actually a lithographic reproduction of the original. This would explain the rather tonal nature of the face. It is hard to achieve such effects on copper. It also explains the weird blend of style–If this is actually a lithograph, why would a printer want to model only in the face and hands in the tonal style, when the rest of the body could easily be modelled in a similar style.
    Or Maybe, Just maybe, the portrait represents a concious archaism on the part of the printer; wishing to mix the “Ye olde line engraving” style with the realism of a daguerreotype?

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