‘All images of Marx are good’
The oldest photograph of Marx we have today dates from 1861 and the original is kept at the Karl Marx Haus in Trier. This picture of Marx, who was 43 years old at the time, was taken in London. He promptly sent copies to friends and acquaintances, among them Ferdinand Lassalle. On 8 May 1861, Marx wrote to him, ‘I enclose two small photographs, one for the countess’, he was referring to Lassalles partner Sophie von Hatzfeldt, ‘to whom I would ask you to convey my best respects, and one for yourself.’
Two days later he wrote to Friedrich Engels ‘Herewith d'abord a photograph. Lupus and Gumpert shall each have ditto as soon as I have got some more prints. I had the thing done, partly for my cousin in Rotterdam, partly in exchange for the photographs I had been given in Germany and Holland.’ Lupus was the nickname Marx and Engels used for their comrade Wilhelm Wolff, with whom they had founded the Communist League. Eduard Gumpert was a friend and doctor from Manchester.
On the back of one copy, which today is kept at the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, Louis Kugelmann, a friend of the Marx family, wrote: this copy was ordered by Bertha Markheim, a friend of the family in Fulda in 1863. Marx’s wife Jenny wrote to her in 1863: ‘That you wish to duplicate my husband’s photo greatly pleased him and the children. Yet, they believe there are better pictures and the girls insist on taking a new one. Karl, however, has been suffering from an inflammation of the eyes for several days that totally disfigures him’.
Wilhelm Liebknecht later wrote about the portraits of Marx: ‘I do not know a single bad photograph of Marx. All show him how he was because he always showed himself how he was. All images of Marx are good.’