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Leandro Crozat: the patented invention of the photographic double ground...

In Italy the phrase “Photographic double ground - Crozat System - Patented” is well known by professionals as well as by vintage and historycal photography lovers. Indeed, it is stamped on the back of hundreds of cartes de visite produced in Italy between the second half of the 1860s and the early Seventies. Nevertheless, the information about the procedure as well as the biography of its inventor have hardly been known up to now. Though, the Crozat System, which included the photographic double ground, the instantaneous coloring and the preservative varnishing system, radically transformed and innovated Photography, especially in Italy. There, it was used by dozens of professionals in order to create a charateristic portrait type in carte de visite format, very much appreciated by the public for its æsthetic characteristics, transparency and brilliance and also for the possibility to color certain parts of the picture.

In the fall of 1862 Leandro Crozat and his younger brother Nicolás, born in Alcoy, Spain, sought and obtained from Her Majesty Queen Isabella II the privilege of industrial invention relates to the photographic double ground, a “mechanical process invented to obtain two grounds in the same photographic set” a shaded one and a general one. 

Since December 1862 Leandro had embarked on a long journey to advertise and sell the Crozat System in the most important Spanish cities. Then he tried to do the same in France (Marseilles), in the United Kingdom (London), Ireland and then in Italy (but also in Egypt and Portugal), before reaching South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay).

Apart from being an itinerant photographer (proposing and teaching the Crozat system), Leandro was also a merchant, a chief manager, a founder as well as president and member of spiritualist associations, Vice-Consul, and responsible for the reading room of the National Library of Chile. He lived a full of adventures life -not too happily, according to him- and characterized by frequent moves. He was a bachelor throughout his life.

Read the Italian version of the book here:

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