The Definitive Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

Napoleon Sarony

Source: American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac, Volume 11, 1896.

American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac, Volume 11, 1896 by Isaac Morgan
Napoleon Sarony Photograph Self portrait

More about Sarony

Mark Twain by Sarony
Newspaper cutting Oscar Wilde did ot waive fee
Oscar Wilde Law of Copyright
Union Square West historical


In a long career it is estimated that Sarony photographed tens of thousands of celebrities including Mark Twain, Walt Whitman,  Tchaikovsky, and as many members of the general public.

Did Sarony pay?

Typically, commercial photographers like Sarony paid celebrities for their image, and it has been asserted that Wilde waived this fee. This newspaper cutting suggests otherwise.


The Sarony picture of Wilde No. 18 plagiarized for a trade card. This led to a famous case in the Supreme Court that established the law of copyright for photographs.

Read more on the Blog.

37 Union Square

The building where Wilde’s pictures were taken located two buildings to the right of the tall Decker Building (extant). Note the familiar Sarony signature used as signage. Sarony rented the entire building at $8,000 p.a.

Napoleon Sarony with fez
The Sarony studio building  at 38 Union Square
Napoleon Sarony Signature
Napoleon Sarony Studio reception


Sarony was barely five feet tall. He wore his trademark red fez no doubt to enhance his stature. 

Sarony Studios 

The Sarony studio building  at 38 Union Square (but not the facade) is extant, as seen in this revealed elevation bearing the words Sarony Portraits. 


The familiar Sarony signature often seen on a the border of a cabinet card below the image.


The entrance to Sarony’s studio was bizarrely decorated with mummies, pottery, sleighs, armor, idols, statues, draperies, and a stuffed crocodile.

The art of posing is in not posing. 

The true pose is not a pose, but a natural position.

Napoleon Sarony

Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2024