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Antonio Florence brings unpublished documentary to IN2PAST’s 4th Meeting

The story of the analyses by HERCULES that confirmed Hercule Florence as a pioneer of Photography

International partnership takes 200-year-old photographic artefacts to Évora


‘In June 2022, the Hercule Florence Institute brought together world experts in chemistry and conservation to analyse pictures that survived nearly two centuries. The results of those analyses may rewrite the history of Photography.’

With a background sound of plates, cutlery and voices around a table, thus begins the short documentary about the unprecedented partnership that brought together four institutions, Instituto Hercule Florence (IHF), Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS), Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and HERCULES Laboratory – University of Évora / IN2PAST… and confirmed Hercule Florence as the unknown pioneer of Photography.

The video was shown at the 4th National Meeting of IN2PAST Researchers, which took place at NOVA FCSH, in Lisbon, in the beginning of February. It was presented by Antonio Florence, founder and president of IHF, and great-great-great-grandson of Hercule Florence, and by Sara Valadas, HERCULES/ IN2PAST researcher and member of the team that carried out the physical-chemical analyses of three photographic objects from the IHF and IMS collections: an image of a Masonic diploma and two of pharmacy labels.

Under the scientific coordination of Art Kaplan (GCI) and António Candeias (HERCULES / IN2PAST), different equipment and techniques were used, including microscopy (photomicrography), X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and Atenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR). The goal was to identify the materials used by Hercule Florence in image forming and image fixing/stabilizing, which included gold and… urine.

The experts’ enthusiasm in the video when they verify the detection of this metal and of urea, through peaks displayed in the computer, was shared by the dozens of IN2PAST researchers gathered in Auditorium B1 at no. 26, Av. de Berna.

Even more contagious was listening to Antonio Florence talk a little bit about his great-great-great-grandfather’s story, and the birth of this unique project, whose story remains largely untold.

© Priscila Gonçalves and Luciana Florence | IHF

IN2PAST thanks IHF and Antonio Florence for sharing this documentary and for taking part in IN2PAST’s 4th Meeting.

Antonio commented on the short documentary and the life and work of Hercule Florence. Sara talked us through the analyses conducted at HERCULES. © Priscila Gonçalves and Luciana Florence | IHF & IN2PAST

Antonio showed and shared a collection of works about Hercule Florence. © Priscila Gonçalves and Luciana Florence | IHF & IN2PAST