The William Henry Fox Talbot Catalogue Raisonné


Object within Schaaf no. 4590

Shark egg casing (North Atlantic cat or dog shark)

Object details

Image size: h 18.6cm x w 11.5cm

Object Type: Paper Negative-Contact

Physical description: light pattern caused by glue spots

Inscription: W (monogrammed) in ink, recto

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, purchased 2005
Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, August 3, 1984
Rinhart Galleries, New York
Sotheby's London, June 29, 1984, lot 134
Henry Bright

Owner: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Object owner number: 2005.100.800

This object is part of Schaaf no. 4590

Shark egg casing (North Atlantic cat or dog shark)

'This sheet was mounted with five other photogenic drawings of flowers, leaves, and keys on one page of an album of prints, drawings, and photographs assembled by Henry Bright (1784–1869), a merchant from a prominent Bristol family and former member of the British Parliament. It records the form of an egg case from the Scyliorhinidae family of sharks, native to the North Atlantic. Because the marine specimen did not lie flat against the photosensitized paper as a pressed leaf or flower would, the light passed over and around portions of its long tendrils, giving the illusion of the egg case still floating amid the vegetation of the sea bed' (Metropolitan Museum of Art catalogue record).

This photogenic drawing of a buttercup have traditionally attributed to been attributed to Nicolaas Henneman and William Henry Fox Talbot but has more recently been linked to the early female photographic pioneer, Sarah Anne Bright. Her photographs are discussed in a project blog.

To learn more see Professor Schaaf's talk The Damned Leaf: Musings on History, Hysteria & Historiography.