Bourneville, Désire- Magloire.(?) ( Hospice de Bicêtre. Section des Enfants.) Very beautiful album of original photographs, taken in the 1890's, mounted two by two on boards.containing 61 photographs. ( albumen prints.) Medical photography
Paris. ? Without publisher and date, ca, 1890.Size of the album :17" x 14". (= 42 x 33.5 cm. ) Size of the photographs : 6,5" x 9". ( 22 x 16 cm.) 61 original photographs ( albumen prints.) in an contemporary halfcloth album Binding a bit used, some photographs faded, but in very good condition. All photographs mounted on cardboard as issued in very good condition.
The captions of the photographs are handwritten : Cour des Petits Ateliers, Atelier de Photographie, Serre aux Fleurs, Cour des Grands Ateliers, Atelier de Tonnellerie, Cour des Grands Ateliers, Infirmerie Générale, Chapelle, Cuisine, Magasin aux ., Cour de la Vacherie, Vue Générale., Remises des Voitures, Buanderie (Lavoir), Sale de linge, Etendage, Entrée de la lingerie, Salle de couture, Lingerie, Bâtiment des grands infirmes, Bâtiment des cancéreux, Ancienne Entrée Principale (1668) présentement Temple Protestant, Amphithéâtre, Cour du chantier au bois, Scellés (maman), Cour, Cour Site des colonnes, Cour, Infirmerie, Grand Bâtiment, Cour des Colonnes, Petite Ecole, Grande Ecole, Petite Gymnastique, Bains, Salle des bains de pieds, Salle d'eau, Musée scolaire, Musée Pathologique, Bâtiment des musées, Bâtiment des gâteux Infirmerie Isolement vue prise des marais, Jardins des surfaces géométriques (volumes), Vue de l'infirmerie des enfants, Pavillon des contagieux, Pavillon des cellules (vue de face), Pavillon des cellules (vue de côté), Parloir, Cour d'entrée, Grand bâtiment Dortoir Refectoire, Vu de l'entrée de l'infirmerie, Bâtiment de l'infirmerie, Bâtiment des infirmes, Bâtiment du gymnase des classes en atelier de couture, Préau, Vue de droite prise du fort, Puisard de Bicêtre, Mi-Carême (1894). The photographs were shot by a very talented person, the choice of the point of views is perfect, and all these photographs tell us so much about the life in a community, the organisation, the care in all the details, the gardens, the heating with those big coal ovens in the center of the rooms. Most of the photographs are inhabited by small figures, like haunting little ghosts, children in the class rooms with their stirn bearded teacher, gardeners, patients wandering or sitting on benches in the courtyards, all this photographed as if the photographer himself had created this small, industrious self-sufficient world. We had another album on the Bicetre and some of the pictures are the same.
Folio album, 425 x 335mm, containing 60 albumen prints, mounted on cardboard leaves on linen guards, all but
one leaf with two photographs per page, photographs mainly 165 x 232mm, each with neat handwritten caption
below (though not always legible); one photograph missing, a few slightly faded; with a couple of further pencil
annotations; in contemporary half cloth over marbled boards, binding a little rubbed and worn.
A stunning and highly evocative album of original photographs, taken during the early 1890s, vividly capturing
life at the famous Parisian asylum, the Hopital Bicêtre, and highlighting in particular the Asile des Enfants.
Though anonymously compiled, it seems probable that some, if not all of the photographs, were taken by M.
Hubert, the resident photographer at the hospital, and may welll have been taken under the auspices of the
famous neurologist Désire-Magloire Bourneville, who was resident paediatric physician there from 1879 to 1905,
and a well-known advocate of photography. It seems not beyond the bounds of reason that he may also have taken
some of the images as well, the UMPC in Paris holding two albums attributed to him dated 1880-1881, although
we have so far been unable to verify this conjecture.
Whoever the photographer, they are nevertheless expertly taken, and provide a unique and fascinating insight
into the 'behind-the-scenes' life and organisation of the hospital - though it must be said giving a somewhat
sanitized view, and far from the startling and often harrowing images of patients so famously depicted by
Bourneville and Regnard's in their iconic depiction of hysteria, Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière
(1876-1880). This recognition and appreciation of the power of the still relatively new field of medical
photography is highlighted in the second photograph - itself an image of the 'Atelier de photographie'. Ever since
the work of Pinel, significant improvements had been undertaken to improve the care and treatment of mentally ill
patients and prisoners at the Bicetre, and this continued during the 19th century. By around 1872 it housed around
300 psychiatric patients. The first few photographs in the album depict the various courtyards and workshops that
surrounded the hospital. In the fifth photograph, a small pencil note adds 'Maison de M. Hubert'. In Paul Bru's
Histoire de Bicêtre (1890), written with the collaboration of Bourneville, he credits a M. Hubert as photographer of
the hospital. A further personal note by the compiler is written against the image 'Scellées' - the small figure of a
woman seen in the background described as 'Maman'.
From the workshops we then see images of the main infirmary, the Chapel, the kitchen, the large laundry room,
huge washing vats, the ironing room, and a field full of sheets drying. Various members of staff can be seen hard
at work, the scale of the task at hand clearly visible through the vast quantities of bed linen on display. A series of
internal courtyards are then illustrated, in which can be seen a number of male residents taking the fresh air,
either sitting on benches or wandering around the courtyards. Attention then begins to move once again indoors -
with one of the rather stark infirmary wards depicted - complete with large heating stove in the centre of the room.
Though the caption below has been written in shorthand, the male figures in the pictures suggests that this is an
adult ward, though they could alternatively be male attendants.
The next few photographs are perhaps the most evocative, as we are shown both the 'petit' and 'grand école'
both classrooms full of young students under the watchful care of nurses and a stern looking bearded male
teacher. Bru, on p. 283 of his Histoire, gives quite a detailed account of the education provisions set in place by
Bourneville. The boys were taught the basic principles of reading, writing and mathematics, though they were
graded into two classes: 'La première pour les enfants épileptiques, imbéciles, arriérés: la seconde pour les idiots
valides, gâteux ou non' (Bru p. 282). Alternative methods of treatment and physical exercise were encouraged, and
in the next series of photographs we see a number of young boys stretching in the 'petite gymnastique', and then
the hydrotherapy room, the bathroom and the 'salle des bains de pieds'. Music and singing was also encouraged,
and in the photograph of the 'musée scolaire', a number of instruments can be seen in the cabinets, together with
books, a globe, and a couple of fossils. In the centre of the room a number of students are seated at a table, under
the supervision of a nurse and male attendant. The following photograph is that of the 'Musée pathologique' -
though it seems unlikely somehow that the boys would be allowed access to this vast array of medical specimens
on display around the room in the wooden cabinets. Some of the workshops located on the grounds - possibly
those depicted in the album - were also used for practical education for those able, with students learning skills
such as shoemaking, sewing, carpentry and printing.
Images of some of the formal gardens then follow, with views of the contagion pavilion, and the children's
infirmary also shown, together with some panoramic views of the hospital itself. The album concludes with two
images taken during the traditional Lent festival of Mi-Carême, and show both the patients and staff all in fancy
dress. The penultimate image is dated 1894.
The UPMC in Paris, which houses the Charcot collection, holds two albums of photographs taken by Bourneville
and believed to date between 1880-81: 'Recueil de photographies sur les aliénés de Bicêtre'. Bourneville himself
published a 'Histoire de la section des enfants de Bicêtre (1879-1889)' in 1889, with a subsequent revised editions
in 1892. Whether or not he or Hubert were the photographers responsible for this compilation, it nevertheless
provides a unique and wonderful snapshot of an iconic institution at the end of the 19th century.
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