van Monckhoven, Désiré



Person (Male)

Alternative name or descriptor

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules


  • Professional / Connected


Life dates

Ghent, 1834 - Ghent, 1882


1850 ca - 1866 Gand, Coupure, 41
° 25.9.1834; + 25.9.1882. Doctor of Science, highly renowned experimenter and populariser, one of the most famous researchers in the field of photographic chemistry. Also a pioneer of astrophotography and photochemical industry in Belgium.
Van Monckhoven began his multifaceted activities in the field of photography as a precocious collaborator of Louis Jacopssen (see that name) with views of Ghent, 1850 ca. View of the Ghent town hall, published by Blanquart-Evrard in the series "Variétés photographiques", 1853 or 1854. He wrote numerous works on photography and on optics: "Traité de photographie sur collodion", Paris & Ghent, 1855. This work met with unparalleled success in the French-speaking world under the title "Traité général de photographie", Paris, 1856; enlarged and revised, it was republished eight times up until 1889 and was translated into English in 1856, German in 1864, Italian in 1865 and Russian in 1876. "Méthodes simplifiées de photographie sur papier", 1857; "Nouveau procédé de photographie sur plaques de fer", 1858. "Répertoire général de photographie", 1859. "Traité populaire de photographie sur collodion", 1863, translated into Dutch, German, English and Russian. "Traité d'optique photographique", 1866, translated into German and English. He wrote for several journals: Bulletin belge de la photographie; Bulletin de la Société française de photographie, Paris; Journal of the Photographic Society, London; Photographische Correspondenz, Vienna.
Member of the "Société française de photographie" from 16.7.1859. Patent of 1.8.1863 for "an optical apparatus intended for enlarging by projection" [running counter to diurnal motion, the sun’s rays are reflected uniformly by means of a mirror propelled either manually or mechanically by clockwork]. Subsequently manufacturer of heliostat enlargers under the name "appareil solar dialytique". From 1864 until the end of his life he corresponded with Nadar (see this name), to whom he offered a heliostat enlarger as a present.
1867 Gand, Rue de la Maison de Force, 48
He established himself in Vienna [A] from January 1867 until 1870: partnership [Emil] Rabending & Monckhoven [sic], portrait studio in Vienna - Wieden, Favoritenstrasse 3, "im Hofe der kk. Erzgiesserei" [in the courtyard of the state iron foundry] from 1.3.1867 to 30.9.1868. He listed Wiedenhauptstrasse in Vienna as a further address.
1870 * - 1882 + Gand, Rue de l'Hôpital, 89
He published a detailed method for producing collotypes in August 1870, thereby making the process freely available to photographers and printers without restriction. Patent of 30.11.1870 for "an apparatus suited for correcting the deflexion of telescope reflectors". After his return to Belgium, Van Monckhoven established a factory for the production of photographic carbon papers and he published "Historique du procédé au charbon", 1875; "Traité pratique de photographie au charbon", 1876, translated into German and Italian; "Instruction sur le procédé au gélatino-bromure d'argent", 1879. In July 1879 he wrote to Nadar that he was attempting to produce colours directly in the camera. In the same period he advised him to change to carbon photography as a result of the numerous problems of yellowing and fading encountered with albumen prints. Member of the ABP from 14.9.1875.
Van Monckhoven manufactured emulsions for plates and carried out research in this field. In 1879 he discovered that the ripening of emulsion on gelatine-bromide plates could be improved by the addition of ammonia, resulting in a better reproduction of half-tones. At this time the plates were being marketed by Beernaert and by Palmer Descamps (see those names); later, Van Monckhoven's widow took over the manufacture and marketing of the plates.
He had a factory built in 1880, and in 1882 he was manufacturing paper for carbon prints on an industrial scale (10 000 rolls that year); he invented a process which enabled him to dispense with washing the gelatinous emulsion: the silver carbonate was spread in a solution of gelatine and transformed into silver bromide by means of hydrogen bromide. A few days before his sudden death from natural causes he claimed to have photographed a long spark (De Vylder, G. "Revue photographique", Bulletin du Musée de l'Industrie, vol. 83, 1883, p. 19).


1850 ca - 1866 Gand, Coupure, 41
1867 Gand, Rue de la Maison de Force, 48
1870 * - 1882 + Gand, Rue de l'Hôpital, 89


Paris, 1864 (no address); Amsterdam, 1865; Paris, 1865; Paris, 1867; Paris, 1876; Paris, 1878 (3 metre high enlargement); Brussels, 1880 (enlargements made with the solar camera, 1862, and in artificial light, 1870; applications of photography to spectroscopy).

Genres / subject matter



VON ROHR, Moritz. "Contributions to the history of the photographic objective in England and America between 1800 and 1875", The Photographic Journal, vol. 64, 1924, pp. 349-359 [Part 5 "D. Van Monckhoven (1865-1867), as mediator between A. Steinheil and English opticians"].
(PROVINCIAAL MUSEUM VOOR FOTOGRAFIE ANTWERPEN). D. Van Monckhoven, 1834-1882. Antwerp, 1982, 74 pp.
ROOSENS, Laurent. "Dr Désiré Van Monckhoven als Autor von fotographischen Lehrbüchern", Fotogeschichte, no. 8, 1983, pp. 3-12 and no. 10, 1983, p. 72.
JOSEPH, S.F. & SCHWILDEN, T. "Désiré Van Monckhoven (1834-1882). Son rôle dans le développement de la photographie", Technologia, vol. 5, 1982, pp. 31-41 and vol. 7, 1984, pp. 29-31.

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Affiliated entity

Association belge de Photographie

Type of affiliation

Member of

Dates of affiliation

1875 - 1882

Description of relationship


Record source



Level of detail

Dates of creation/revision

SFJ revised 23.1.2017; MCC revised 25.1.2019;




Maintenance notes