Sketchy

Michel-Eugène Chevreul

Photograph of Michel-Eugène Chevreul (Wikimedia Commons)

Writing to Paget on 5 February 1888, Charles Edward Brown-Séquard enclosed something extra.

The drawing, in ink, is a “Sketch of Monsieur Chevreul (back view), on his chair at the Academy of Sciences, taken by Professor J. M. Charcot December 1887.” The gentleman in question is balding, with a mad-scientist’s ruff of hair ringing his head.

I find “taken” an odd choice of words: one takes photographs but makes a sketch. Photography can seem—can be, in the case of amateur snapshots, with little thought given to composition or technical requirements, beyond (maybe) flash/no flash—a more passive thing. A real image is preserved. “Taken.” Almost like “stealing,” a lucky seizure of something to which one has no particular claim. A certain degree of accuracy is assumed, which need not be the case with a sketch, created from nothing (even if inspired by reality).

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