Monthly Archives: February 2017

We just acquired this rare set of early views of Tachira state. Mostly mountainous, the andean state of Tachira and its capital San Cristobal were almost cut off from the rest of the country until the early 20th century, mostly due to the lack of roads – and 19th century photographs of the Venezuela Andes are extremely rare. It is therefore a pleasure to share this discovery with you.

These prints come from Germany and depict a couple of German shop or warehouse. German immigrants were especially active in coffee trade in Los Andes state at the time, as well as in Maracaibo. All the prints are captioned on verso in Spanish. Most of them are in stunning condition.

View of San Cristobal

View of San Cristobal

Plaza Paez, San Cristobal

Plaza Paez, San Cristobal

The slaughterhouse, San Cristobal

The slaughterhouse, San Cristobal

German shop in San Cristobal

German shop in San Cristobal

Detail of the previous photo

Detail of the previous photo

Storehouse of the casa Blohm, San Cristobal

Storehouse of the casa Blohm, San Cristobal

Detail of Casa Blohm, with a poster about "cuestion guyana"

Detail of Casa Blohm, with a poster about “cuestion guyana”

A German family house in San Cristobal

A German family house in San Cristobal

San Cristobal, the electrical power plant.

San Cristobal, the electrical power plant.

The electrical power plant from the outside

The electrical power plant from the outside

Barrio Guzman, San Cristobal

Barrio Guzman, San Cristobal

The barrio Guzman was built in the early 1880’s after the 1875 earthquake almost destroyed San Cristobal.

Torbes river, San Cristobal

Torbes river, San Cristobal

Barria de la Guaira, Rubio

Barria de la Guaira, Rubio

The City of Rubio, is ten kilometers South-West of San Cristobal, close to the Colombian border.

Main street of Rubio

Main street of Rubio

Merida and the Sierra Nevada

Merida and the Sierra Nevada

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Merille : photographer ? Publisher ? Pirate ?

We previously wrote about issues of authorship in early Mexican photography. But a set of cartes de visite, recently discovered, shed a new light on this complex subject.

Most of these carte de visite sized prints are mounted on board. On the verso, they are stamped with the name and address of “Merille, fotografo, 2da calle de San Francisco, n° 8, Mexico”. In itself, a wet stamp on the back of a carte de visite is unusual, as most studio photographers would have their cards printed by a typographical printer. Even more curious is the carte bellow.

mex-cdv335

 

Merille just stamped a Julio Amiel card ! On most of the other cards, the Julio Amiel name have been carefully erased, but is still visible…

 

mex-cdv336 mex-cdv337

Julio Amiel (certainly a French Jules Amiel) is known to have been active in Mexico city from 1860 to 1864. His studio was at n°7, 2da calle de San Francisco – so just next door or in front of the future studio or shop of Merille. It is believed that Amiel sold his studio in 1864 to François Aubert. Of Merille, we know almost nothing : only  the address of his studio. His first name is controversial : one source names him as Auguste, an other one as François. According to Palmquist and Kailbourn, in their hugely useful Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide, he was active in Mexico city from 1864 to 1867. As we know with more certainty that François Aubert was active in Mexico from 1864 to 1869, that would place Merille and Aubert at the same time in Mexico city, facing each other, quite literally, in the calle de San Francisco…

But here is the rub : Merille is a well known name, and a lot of images bearing his stamp can be found in museum in the US or Mexico. But I have never personally seen a Merille photograph that was not actually by Aubert or an other photographer, including from now on Amiel. And all the photographs bellow, stamped on the back by Merille, fit pretty well in this theory : Merille was a publisher, not a photographer. (All titles are the original in Spanish inscribed in ink on the versos).

Indians

Indians

Tortilleras

Tortilleras

Emperatriz Carlota

Emperatriz Carlota (probably by Disderi, and dated 1868, after the death of the emperor).

Cocinera

Cocinera

Calle de Plateros

Calle de Plateros

Tortilleras

Tortilleras

Esquina de las calles Empedradillo, Escalerillas y Tacuba.

Esquina de las calles Empedradillo, Escalerillas y Tacuba.

Cupula de Santa Tereza à Vera Cruz

Cupula de Santa Tereza à Vera Cruz

Portail des marechaux

Portail des maréchaux

Catedral al Poniente

Catedral al Poniente

Chapultepec

Chapultepec

Templo de Santa Gertrudis en Orizaba

Templo de Santa Gertrudis en Orizaba

Cathedral

Cathedral

Calendario azteca

Calendario azteca

La Profesa

La Profesa

Looking forward to hear from my Mexican friends : do you know of any photographs that you can, without doubt, attribute to Merille ? Or is he an early and shameless photographic pirate ?

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