|A theatrical cabinet card portrait of a clown dressed in white, accompanied by two women, one of whom has inscribed and signed the print in ink across its lower right-hand corner ‘Yours very sincerely, Dorothy Douglas.’
Photographed by Sarony of 37, Union Square, New York.
Napoleon Sarony (1821-1896) was born in Quebec, Canada. He moved to New York in 1836 and worked as a lithographer for Nathaniel Currier until he established his own lithographic firm in 1843. Originally self-taught, in 1858 he went to Europe for artistic training. In 1864 he apprenticed himself to his brother, Oliver Francois Xavier Sarony, a noted photographer in Scarborough, an English seaside resort. Within a year he went into partnership in Birmingham with R.W. Thrupp and Martin Laroche (real name William Henry Silvester, often claimed to be another Canadian-born photographer, but in fact born in Lambeth in 1814). Sarony returned to New York in 1866 and opened a studio at 680 Broadway. The studio was moved to 37 Union Square in 1871, and to 256 Fifth Avenue about 1885. He became one of the most famous photographers in America, specializing in portraits of actors and actresses. Sarony is said to have taken some 30,000 theatrical portraits. He was particularly noted for the unconventional poses and animated expression he elicited from his sitters. It doubtless helped that Sarony was as colourful, eccentric, and theatrical as many of his subjects. A tiny man like his namesake, he enjoyed strutting around in hussar's uniform. At his death, the studio reportedly contained 500,000 negatives. His will specified that his son Otto manage the studio for 15 years (at $75 a week) and the profits be split between Sarony's widow, his daughter Belle, and Otto.
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