AMSTERDAM — At first glance, the pictures look like something recovered from the bottom of a Dumpster. They are pitted and scuffed, covered with rust spots that resemble blooms of algae or craters on the surface of the moon. Only close up can you glimpse an image of a city, almost too murky to see: the outlines of an apartment building, a scattering of roofs and chimneys. Whatever was originally depicted has left only the ghostliest of imprints.
These works, by the German artist Sylvia Ballhause, are in fact photographs of photographs: faithful replicas of a piece by the pioneering scientist, painter and printmaker Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. Made in 1839, “The Munich Triptych” was Daguerre’s three-part demonstration of an image-making technology he had invented and named, immodestly, after himself — two “daguerreotype” photographs of a Paris boulevard, which he framed alongside a domestic still life. Keen to attract publicity, Daguerre presented the triptych to King Ludwig I of Bavaria.