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Visit to an Atelier in Edinburgh
Published in "The King of Saxony's Journey through England and Scotland in the Year 1844" by Dr. C.G. Carus (London: Chapman and Hall, 1846), p.336-337.
After delaying long on this curious rock, which, besides bearing monuments on its surface, is itself a monument of a Plutonian period of our planet, consisting as it does of masses of trapp curiously connected together, we began to descend, and visited at the base of
the hill an atelier for that peculiar sort of Daguerreotype painting, invented by Talbot, which is here called Calotypography, and in which the reflected image is not represented on a shining metal surface, but on paper, in a brownish colour, often exceedingly well, and much more like a drawing, but wanting the sharpness and fineness of the other process. Professor Brewster, in Taymouth, had previously exhibited to the king a number of these specimens, and had also presented me with some of them at the same time, particularly directing our attention to this atelier. We found a large number of specimens hung up here, landscapes, architectural pictures and portraits. Many of them had a peculiar charm ! Such immediate copies of nature have always given me ample materials for reflexion. It is not easy to get a better idea of how much a real work of art, that is, the representation of the idea in the soul of an artist, carried out originally and with method, must of necessity differ from nature, than by comparing a really beautiful portrait Raphael's Fornarina, for example with a head copied by this process. The free work of art can and ought indeed to present everywhere less and at the same time more than nature, the mere copy only gives the shadow of nature itself, and therefore remains soulless, unsatisfying, and rigid. All this however does not prevent the neatness, exactness, perfectness, and the peculiar want of style, but at the same time want of affectation, of these latter specimens from possessing a peculiar charm for the artist: and I found all these old ideas confirmed on the present occasion. His majesty determined upon having a group drawn, containing the whole of the travelling party. The sunshine was all that could be wished, all the necessary preparations were made and the camera obscura twice employed. Unfortunately the master himself was not in the way, and an assistant was obliged to conduct the process. The result was not very successful.