Posted on 03/17/2014

Photo taken on March 18, 2012

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early photography
carte de visite
albumen print
Mayer György
Madi Kovács János

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Portrait of Madi Kovács János

Portrait of Madi Kovács János
Albumen print on cardboard, carte de visite
Mayer György (Pest), ca. 1864-66
entry number: cdv.2012.08

What hides behind the negligent charm à l`hongroise of this man? In this case, we have a clue. He is identified on the verso as “madi Kovács János”. In such a context, one would expect "madi" to refer to his birthplace, place of residence or domain (in the case of nobility) and the only candidate for that would be Mád, a village in northeastern Hungary, but the inscription lacks an accent. However, an internet search of the name, as it is written on the card, turned up the one and only Madi Kovács János (1839-1907), who was recently commemorated in the Hungarian city of Paks as the founder of the local fire department (Önkéntes Tüzoltó Egylet) in 1874. Considering that the photo must have been taken in the mid 1860s, it is highly probable that this is our man, then aged 25-27. A short biography (in Hungarian) related to the commemoration is available on the portal of Hungarian firemen and in the local newspaper, Paksi Hírnök. How did the portrait of this farm administrator turned fireman-pioneer end up in a flea market in Paris... I don`t know yet.

Mayer György was one of the pioneers of Hungarian photography, already active by 1844 as a daguerreotypist in Pest. He was also one of the first Hungarian photographers to introduce oval and vignetted portraits on CDVs. I presume that this card design is later than Mayer`s stamped one, which was still in use in 1862. Knowing that gaabboo`s very similar photo is dated 1864 and that Mayer had already switched to a more sophisticated design by the mid-late 1860s, I would date this photo ca. 1864-66.


View this photo and the pertaining comments on Flickr.

lisabee73 has particularly liked this photo

Great detective work to identify this man!
4 years ago.
skiagraphia has replied to lisabee73
Thank you - his not-so-common name made research a bit easier. Nori (elinor04) also added some interesting details on Madi's family in her Flickr comments.
4 years ago.