Joseph Maes: self portrait of the armless Antwerp painter Charles Félu, ca. 1871
This rare CdV by J. Maes (1838-1908) is a portrait of the painter Charles François Félu (1830-1900) working on a self-portrait. He was born without arms. His mother learned him to work with his feet. Charles learned painting from Hendrik Leys in 1859 at the Antwerp Academy of Art. He nevertheless achieved considerable success as a painter.
In 1874 Felu visited London, where many people saw him copying in the National Gallery and the museums in Kensington. Félu mixed colours with ease and held the palette with his left toe gripping the palette like a thumb. He used his right foot to paint. (from NPG)
King Leopold II from Belgium loved the work of Charles Félu and visited the painter's studio several times.
I do believe Félu is working here on a self-portrait.
Because of the photographer's address (J. Maes phot, Place Du Musée à Anvers) we can date this albumen print ca. 1866-1873 (Joseph, Schwilden & Claes, 1997). It's at this address that J. Maes brought a lithographic press to Antwerp in 1871. He adapted it to produce collotypes. It was the first steam powered collotype press imported to Belgium.
J. Maes published later in 1889 the photographic book 'La Catastrophe d'Anvers' with this technique.
This rare albumen CdV is in very good condition. Trimmed corners and some spots from the original retouching. Name of the painter in fountain pen at the verso, dated in pencil, 26 August 1871.
Tamara Berghmans (Ed.): Photography Inc. From Luxury Product to Mass Medium, Lannoo (p. 140)
There is another example (P/2001/63) in the collection at the FoMu, Antwerp.
This CdV is also in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG x18868)