the 1882 and 1883 napoleon sarony photographs of oscar wilde
Shortly after his arrival in New York for his 1882 Lecture Tour, Oscar Wilde posed for a series of photographs taken by Napoleon Sarony, then the most famous portrait photographer in America.
Sarony profited from the sale of celebrity photographs and for Wilde they would enhance his fame prior to the lecture tour. Such was the mutual benefit that the fee usually paid by the photographer was waived.
The main body of photographs were taken at Sarony's studio at 37 Union Square, New York City  on or about 10th January, 1882. They have become the most recognizable images of Oscar Wilde and the ones by which we most readily associate him today.
Wilde revisited New York in August 1883 when Sarony took several more photographs, this time with Wilde's hair cut much shorter.
One of the photographs [number 18] became the subject of a copyright infringement suit by Sarony against the Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company, which had marketed unauthorized lithograph trade cards containing the image. The federal trial court for the Southern District of New York awarded a $610 judgment to Sarony (the equivalent today of over $13,000). The judgment was affirmed by the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, and subsequently by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Sepia vs Black & White
The Sarony photographs were originally developed in black & white but many, if not all, will have undergone the yellowing process familiar in old photographs. This is the result over time of chemical changes in the albumen used during the period to hold the silver emulsion.
For uploading to the Internet all images undergo a form of digital transfer. Those uploaded "in color" will display this sepia tone. Other images however, are black & white but this does not necessarily imply any more authenticity or originality, but is more likely the result of being uploaded or subsequently manipulated to grayscale.
the sarony photographs
of oscar wilde
Click image to view gallery.
The only online archive all known photographs of Oscar Wilde taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1882 and 1883.