U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: vernis soehnee (check Doerner!!!!)

Re: vernis soehnee (check Doerner!!!!)

At the time I first found Demachy's mention of the Vernis Soehnee, at least 10 years ago (before my first Post-Factory, dated 1998), I asked colleagues in France via the list, but also offlist, and friends travelling in France to check to see if it was still known and/or for sale. This drew a blank.

Over the years I've asked again, and been helped --greatly-- by Gene Robkin from this list, who, in addition to his own interest, had an unusually obliging university librarian who conducted many searches and exchanges of literature, books, references, etc. None found either the varnish or the formula, although Gene found some interesting history of the Soehnee family, and sent me an adorable antique stopper bottle from (I think) the perfume, which is in fact beside me at the computer as I write.

Meanwhile, I have some 20 books on artists' processes & materials, and found a reference in one of them -- but nothing beyond the info (which we already knew) that it was soluble in alcohol and was a "resin."

Then, within the last month or so, while looking through Doerner for something else [that's "The materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting with Notes on the Techniques of the Old Masters" by Max Doerner -- as I have often mentioned, a good book not quite translated from the German, a terrific help when, soon after graduating from Cooper Union, where we were all so artistic we sneered at technique, I realized I wanted to really PAINT and my page of scribbled notes from a semester of "materials & methods" course was useless) I came across a more complete -- tho no way adequate description:

See pages 204 and 205 of Doerner's "Revised Edition." With apologies to Gene for not sending this on to him immediately (but thanks to him for suggesting research in varnishes -- this was that chapter) I note my procrastination T-shirt -- but more to the point, that stuff, including all the paperwork you've neglected, grows in the dark and I've been so swamped with catching up after the years off for "Read My T-shirt" [if any of you haven't already, please see www.frontand backpress.com and contact me for bargain pre-election price !] that I'm just mow fully picking up where I left off... (It's wonderful -- I get to tear up -- that's pronounced "tare up" not the crying kind) so much, but the rest is pure genius.)

Of course it's not beyond the realm of possibility that my inquiries showing great demand have stirred re-production of the product, but at the time I could get no word... Except the best advice of the field at large was "probably a shellac of some kind"... I consulted with wood finishing experts, and tried a white shellac from Kremer, which was not it... tho I have some notes of others to try. Meanwhile, as Mae West put it: "So many formulas, so little time !"

But an IMPORTANT caveat: Demachy's size was starch, not gelatin, and I understand that shellac et al do not work the same on both and not at all on gelatin... Which could be why my various trials didn't work. Not the wrong formula, but the wrong paper.


On Sat, 19 Jan 2008, Jean Daubas wrote:

Hi Chris !

I'll check next week whether one may still buy  le Vernis Soehnée in stores and I'll make you know.

By the way, I had a look at the scanned book you mentioned and there are just a few explanations about the Soehnée process which mainly consists in a way of helping the complete dissolution of resin to make the varnish.

But I was surprised to find no more info about le "Vernis Soehnée"  and, following the URL link that you gave in your post, I noticed that you searched for  "vernis soehnee" instead of  "vernis Soehnée".
And there you get some interesting results; I only mention 2 url but they are plenty (including Demachy's book, of course)  :

- the  description of the process by Soehmée (1836) at :
http://books.google.com/books?id=uS0GAAAAQAAJ&pg=RA2-PA53&dq=vernis+Soehn%C3%A9e&hl=fr#PRA2-PA56,M1   page 54 and following

-an article in the Bulletin de la Société française de Photographie (1860) about the use of vernis Soehmée in the chapter devoted to : PROCÉDÉ   Pour transporter sur papier, sans les retourner, les clichés faits sur verre au collodion ; =  process for transfering to paper, without turning them , collodion on glass pictures. at
chapter begins on page 119

Chris, I had a special thought for you, when I noticed in the very long list of items necessary to apply the process the presence of
Un flacon de gomme arabique dissoute, bien blanche, pure et d'une consistance sirupeuse.
Un petit verre pour y mettre la gomme nécessaire à l'opération ' '
Un petit blaireau très-doux pour étendre la gomme
I hope by this indication contribute to feed your passion for gum, to excite your desire for this white, pure and syrupeous matter...
HeHeHe will say Mark !   ;-)
Hope this helps,
Cheers from France

----- Original Message -----
From: "Christina Z. Anderson" <zphoto@montana.net>
To: "Alt, List" <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2008 5:15 PM
Subject: vernis soehnee

AHA. Below is the URL that talks about an exhibit of watercolors made by
Charles-Frederic Soehnee, none other than the famous maker of vernis soehnee
which the article says is still used.  Does anyone from France see it in
stores today?  Apparently he made his fortune on the varnish! I wonder if
anyone has done a chem analysis of it?

Also a French book mentioning it on p. 350 that you can download...it is an
1844 volume scanned by Google, out of the Harvard Library.  You can download
it to your desktop and check out the couple pages on Soehnee which are pp.
350-1 in the book but I think, say, 367 in the PDF.  Traite de chimee
appliquee aux arts.


Enjoy your read (in French).

Christina Z. Anderson
Assistant Professor
Photo Option Coordinator
Montana State University