Oscar Wilde In America

A Selected Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

Napoleon Sarony

Source: American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac, Volume 11, 1896.

Self portrait
American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac, Volume 11, 1896 by Isaac Morgan

More about Sarony


In a long career it is estimated that Sarony photographed tens of thousands of celebrities including Mark Twain, Walt Whitman,  Tchaikovsky, and as many members of the general public.

Did Sarony pay?

Typically, commercial photographers like Sarony paid celebrities for their image, and it has been asserted that Wilde waived this fee. This newspaper cutting suggests otherwise.


The Sarony picture of Wilde No. 18 plagiarized for a trade card. This led to a famous case in the Supreme Court that established the law of copyright for photographs.

Learn more.

37 Union Square

The building where Wilde’s pictures were taken located two buildings to the right of the tall Decker Building (extant). Note the familiar Sarony signature used as signage. Sarony rented the entire building at $8,000 p.a.


Sarony was barely five feet tall. He wore his trademark red fez no doubt to enhance his stature. 


A pen sketch of Napoleon Sarony c. 1896. 


The familiar Sarony signature often seen on a the border of a cabinet card below the image.


The entrance to Sarony’s studio was bizarrely decorated with mummies, pottery, sleighs, armor, idols, statues, draperies, and a stuffed crocodile.

The art of posing is in not posing. The true pose is not a pose, but a natural position.

Napoleon Sarony

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Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2020