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Louis Auguste Bisson 
Tongan Skulls 
Lithograph, made from daguerreotypes 
13 x 19.5 in. 
Archive Farms 
The Patrick Montgomery Collection, Object No. 2017.477e 
Notes: Large lithographic plate reproducing six daguerreotypes by Louis-Auguste Bisson ca. 1841 of skulls from natives of Tonga. With printed attribution "Voyage au Pôle Sud & Dans L'Océanie / Anthropologie, Pl. 31 bis / Gide Éditeur / Lith par Léveillé d'après les crânes naturels, photographié par Bisson, sous la Direction de Mr. le Dr. Dumoutier / Imp. par Thierry Frères a Paris. From the rare illustrative supplement to Dumont D'Urville, "Voyage au Pôle Sud et dans l'Océanie..." (1842-7). The subjects are identified in the image as "Homme / Maphi Kelepi / Femme / Des Sepultures abandonnies de la baie/ Natif de TONGA-TABOU/NEI-AFOU, Ile Cavao. Arch Tonga (polynesee)This is reported to be the first use of photography in a government publication.
Produced at the very dawn of the photographic era, these daguerreian lithographs are one of the earliest uses of photography as a scientific mirror of the external world. Their meticulous detail and strong three-dimensionality recreates the impression of the original daguerreotype plates. Some of Bisson's original daguerreotypes from the project survive in museums, and two (of skulls) are illustrated in "Le daguerréotype français: Un objet photographique" (2003), pp. 369-370, as well as in "Les Freres Bisson photographies" (1999) cat 213 & 214. 

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