Frenchman Jean Laurent, Juan Laurent, as some photography scholars affectionately call him, is known for being a pioneer of the art of the image in Spain. Born in Garchizy, in 1816, on November 24 of this year, it will be 135 years since the death, in 1886, of who was also a forerunner in the creation of a large collection of Spanish photography. A total author, who captured people, typical scenes, infrastructures, the works of the Prado Museum, the members of the royal family or, to go to a detail, the first known photograph of the city of Alicante, from 1858. A delicious summary, more than 6,300 images, of its encyclopedic catalog is from this Tuesday available in free consultation on the web of the Ministry of Culture.
Photogallery | The digital splendor of Jean Laurent
This project, promoted by the Museum of Romanticism and the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain (IPCE), dependent on the ministry, is organized into five sections: portrait; popular types; image of Spain; fine arts, decorative arts and archeology; and varies. “One of the most interesting and complete, due to its exceptional documentary value, is the image of Spain, with 1,584 records, which includes views of cities and captures the photographer’s interest in the artistic and monumental wealth of the entire country, with photographs of 44 Spanish provinces ”, indicates the note of Culture.
This gives a brief idea of the extensive production of Laurent, an elegant merchant who arrived in Madrid in 1844 attracted “by the business of marbled papers”, as Maite Díaz Francés, doctor in Art History and biographer of the photographer, explained in a conference on this author held on Monday in Madrid, organized by the Fotodoc group, from the Complutense University, and the Anastasio de Gracia Foundation. With a gift for people and a desire to make money, in 1856 he opened a photographic studio at number 39 Carrera de San Jerónimo. Although he began with portraits, he soon broadened his sights, which he directed to monuments, shows – from acrobats to a bearded woman -, bullfights and views of cities and infrastructure works, especially the railway, whose first line had been inaugurated in 1848 (Barcelona-Mataró). A wonderful example is the photographic work he made of the Puente de Toledo, in Madrid.
The newly installed railways were great for Laurent because at that time all the material he needed (camera, tripod, plates, liquids …) could add up to 300 kilos in weight, according to Carlos Teixidor, from the IPCE. So Laurent loaded everything into a carriage, on which he stamped his signature: “J. Laurent “.
Isabel II photographer
In 1860 he obtained the position of camera photographer from Queen Elizabeth II. With a good eye, he printed the following caption on his carriage: “Photographer of SM [Su Majestad]”And added a crown, as a vitola of his distinction. In 1861, he published “his first catalog, portraits of notorious people of the time,” underlines Cultura. “Laurent was already aware of the need to organize a file with everything he was doing,” adds his biographer.
Laurent also had the privilege of photographing the works in the Prado Museum and the Monarchy commissioned him a catalog of public works to erase the image that existed in Europe of Spain as a backward country, without infrastructure and populated by bandits and majas.
Teixidor, in the conference on Laurent, showed a portrait of Prim that proves her modernity. The general appears in full dress, but seated, bent over, with his legs spread over the back of a chair, a picture that today could show a rocker or a movie star.
That groundbreaking spirit also led him to something as ancient as bulls. Laurent made a fantastic photomontage with the portraits of the bullfighting figures of the moment and curled the curl turning those images into cloth for fans, as Belén Palacios, from the National Library, points out, where some 2,000 of his pieces are preserved. A new turn in his business vision led him to transform his photos into postcards, to popularize their sale. He continued to edit volumes until shortly before his death.
Although he died in 1886, the J. Laurent household continued, first in the hands of his stepdaughter, Catalina Melina Dosch, and her son-in-law, Alfonso Roswag. The first known images of the interior of the Bank of Spain were taken with them, days before its inauguration, in 1891. The archive grew until 1915 with Joseph Jean Lacoste and Juana Roig Villalonga and, since 1930, with Joaquín Ruiz Vernacci, its last owner , died in 1975. That year the State acquired it. De Laurent moves his vast and extraordinary work, and it saddens that his grave, in the Almudena cemetery, is shattered.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.