From the early number, this is one of the first daguerreotypes made by Girault de Prangey at the beginning of his Grand Tour. Such success so soon must have been both exciting and very encouraging. The artist presumably arrived at Genoa on route to Rome and was tempted by the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, one of the oldest, finest and most important of the Romanesque churches of the city. He concentrates on a group of sculptural columns at the main entrance, choosing the vertical format to accentuate their height and allow room for inclusion of the capitals, without having to tilt his camera. The light strikes brightly on the stonework, bouncing off the sinuous column in the foreground, which is thrown forwards against the black shadows of the doorway. It reflects off the deeply cut central column and highlights the black and white patterned marble. Everything dances under its spell. The result is dazzling - architecturally, sculpturally and photographically.
There are many qualities unique to the daguerreotype in photography. One is the luminosity of the polished plate which often dictates that you hold the image by hand to tilt and twist it for best effect, lending an added degree of mystery and a sense of intimacy. The same luminous surface is capable, especially in later American examples with their perfect high sheen, of producing an almost liquid flow of tones from dark to light. At the very beginning of his journey Girault de Prangey has conjured an image from his wooden box that exhibits all of these luxuriant qualities.
One other study from the cathedral, in the same vertical panoramic format, was selected by Helmut Gernsheim for his personal collection in 1952 and is now in the collection of the University of Texas. It is numbered '7' in the photographer's sequence.