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Le mouvement

Ètienne-Jules Marey (Beaune 1830-Paris 1904)

Uffizi Library
Printed volume, edition G. Massons Editeur, Paris
h. 20 cm
M-F 12027

On the front plate, ownership note 'ms of Count Ludovico de Courten'

Around the 1870s, Ètienne-Jules Marey, who was already known for his studies on the principles of cardiac mechanics, began researching the movement of living beings. Physiologist, teacher, and pioneer of the cinema, Marey was also the inventor of numerous devices that innovated research methods in his disciplines. He understood the potential of the rapidly developing mechanisms of photographic reproduction, for which he managed to expand the areas of use thanks to the creation of innovative instruments, such as the photographic gun. The results of his research over a twenty-year period were collected and presented in 'Le mouvement', which was published in 1894.

The publication, consisting of 214 engraved illustrations and 3 panels in addition to the text, describes chronophotography and its application in 18 chapters, a technique that allowed the various phases of movement to be fixed photographically.

With chronophotography, Marey was able to record on a single plate a sequence of positions of the body: by breaking down the image, it was possible to better identify the different kinetic phases. This technique also helped to empirically overcome the static nature of the photographic medium, which at the time was constrained by the long time required to capture the image. His interest was mainly directed toward the movement of mammals, birds, fish, and insects, as well as the movement of red and white blood cells within blood vessels. For a while, Marey resided in Italy, in Naples, where in 1889 he made some chronophotographic sequences of bird trajectories.

The volume came to the Uffizi in 1920 as part of a thematically coherent group of treatises and magazines on photographic technique mostly from the 19th century, which was identified as the collection of Count Ludovico de Courten, a practising painter and photographer.


Verdone, M., La cronofotografia e la fotodinamica, in Cultura e scuola, n. 124, anno 1992, Firenze 1993, pp. 67-70;Zannier, I., Storia e tecnica della fotografia, Roma 1998, pp. 248-249; Mannoni, L., Étienne-Jules Marey: la mémoire de l’oeil, Milano-Paris 1999;Frizot, M., Etienne-Jules Marey : chronophotographe, Paris 2001;EJ Marey : Actes du colloque du centenaire, a cura di D. de Font-Réaulx, T. Lefebvre, L. Mannoni, Paris 2006.

Text by
Francesco Marmorini
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