Tag Archives: Architecture

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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Rare views of Cuba, circa 1892-1894

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We just acquired a rare set of Cuban early photography titled Album Panoramico de Yateras, Guantanamo, Isla de Cuba, fotografos : Maurice Hargous y Hermano.

cafetal photography

Cafetal l’Ermitage (owned by Henri Lescaille).

Maurice Hargous, born in Bayonne, France, in 1864, moved to Cuba in 1891, along with his brother Paul (born in 1868). Maurice settled in la Havana, while Paul opened a photographic studio in the Eastern province of Guantanamo. Both brothers left Cuba for Haïti in 1895. We can therefore easily date these photographs around 1892-1894.

Cover of the album

Cover of the album

Almost all the photographs are views of coffee plantations (cafetal in Spanish) from the lush and mountainous Yateras area, around 20 kilometers north-east of the city of Guantanamo.

Most of these cafetales were owned by French colonists, which would explain how this album ended up in Paris. Coffee growing in Eastern Cuba started at the beginning of the 19th century, as the Haitian revolution drove the French out of Hispanolia across the narrow Windward passage to Cuba. Most of them settled in the underdeveloped Guantanamo province. In 1854, the Yateras municipality had thirty-six cafetales, most of them owned by French families. This album was probably owned by a “F.P.”, most likely Fernand Pons, owner of the San Fernando plantation – the photograph of his cafetal is the first in the album…

Cafetal San Fernando

Cafetal San Fernando, Fernand Pons on his horse ?

cafetal photography

Cafetal Santa Rita

cafetal photography

Cafetal Bella Vista (owned by Jean Begué)

cafetal photography

Cafetal San Cornelio

cafetal photography

Cafetal San Dionicio (detail)

cafetal photography

Cafetal San Dionicio

cafetal photography

Cantina de Jesus Navaro

cafetal photography

Cafetal Grignon

cafetal photography

Cafetal la Güira

cafetal photography

Cafetal Silencio

cafetal photography

Cafetal la Deseada

cafetal photography

Cafetal Dios Ayuda (owned by Miss Philipps).

Most of this cafetales were small plantations, with less than 200 acres of cultivated land. Typically, plantations included the owner’s house, terraced drying floors, production areas for milling and roasting, and workers’ quarters.

The entire area of Yateras, and these nowadays ruined plantations, have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.

The UNESCO website states, concerning the integrity of the area : “The Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the Southeast of Cuba has survived intact primarily due to the fact that the area was mostly abandoned in the early 20th century as this region’s traditional coffee growing techniques were increasingly unable to compete with new methods adopted elsewhere in Latin American. The large area included within the inscribed property, of 171 plantations in over 800 square kilometres, has permitted the preservation of a cultural landscape for coffee production from the agricultural level, to its processing, and the roads, trails and bridges that linked the product to market. Individual plantations include the owner’s house (often based on Basque traditions), aqueducts, flourmills, fermentation tanks, drying sheds, and barracks.

Current threats to the inscribed property are primarily due to its status as a largely abandoned archaeological site and the reclamation of the landscape by nature. Efforts have been made to clear and fence plantations in order to protect them from intrusions. The region is an active tectonic zone with a history of earthquakes. In future, this area may come under increased threat from uncontrolled tourism and the exploitation of natural resources although currently accessibility to the majority of the cultural properties is very limited due to its isolation. Additional potential threats to the site are the possible effects of climate change on coffee plantations, particularly drought.”

http://grimh.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&layout=edit&id=746&lang=fr

https://www.ecured.cu/Yateras_(Presencia_Francesa)

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1008

Old Photographs of Havana and Cuba, circa 1880

City Hall, Havana

City Hall, Havana

There is surprisingly few 19th century photographs from Cuba, especially compared to Mexico or Brazil, or even countries further South like Chile or Argentina. It was therefore quite a nice surprise to find this group of decent prints dating probably from the late 1870’s or early 1880’s.

We don’t have much documentation on early Cuban photography, and would be grateful for any help in identifying the photographer.

These prints are mounted on a thick cardboard and captioned in ink in German. We translated the captions in English.

Cathedral of Havana

Cathedral of Havana

Plaza de India, Havana

Plaza de India, Havana

Street scene in Havana

Street scene in Havana

Hotel Telegrapho, Havana

Hotel Telegrapho, Havana

The Hotel Telegrapho is still in Operation in Havana, and is rumoured to be the oldest in town. It got its name by housing the first telegraph of Cuba.

The new Market, Havana

The new Market, Havana

Sugarcane fields, close to Havana

Sugarcane fields, close to Havana

The city of Matanzas

The city of Matanzas

The house of a sugar farm, Cuba

The house of a sugar farm, Cuba

An old slave

An old slave

An old slave

An old slave

A laundress in Havana

A laundress in Havana

Public carriage in Havana

Public carriage in Havana

San Angel Inn, circa 1920

San Angel Inn, circa 1920

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn, circa 1920, viewed from where is today the Casa Estudio de Diego Rivera

We just found in Paris these charming photographs of the beloved San Angel Inn, and are happy to share them, especially with our chilango friends. Apparently, the place has not changed much in the last hundred years…

At the beginning of the XXth century, San Angel was still a mostly rural community, away from the limits of the City of Mexico. The hacienda Goicochea, originally built as a monastery in 1692, was turned into a restaurant in 1906, under the patronage of a Madame Roux – another instance of a successful French-Mexican collaboration.

E. Portilla is (barely) known as a photographer and postcard seller in San Angel Inn as early as 1908. These prints seem to date from the late 1910’s or early 1920’s.

On a more personal note, I’ll warn our non-mexican readers that San Angel Inn serves the best margaritas in the world – hands down – but also the meanest…

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

View from the roof of San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

According to legend, Pancho Villa’s and Zapata’s horses drank in this fountain while the two generals were dividing the country’s territory into North (Villa) and South (Zapata), during their triumphant arrival to the nation’s capital with the Conventionalist Army in 1914.

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

Of Puerta Mariana and Early Photography on Paper in Mexico.

A few years ago we sold to a private collector a large format salt paper print of a view of the Palacio de Mexico. Recently, we saw in an important private Mexican collection one more copy of the same image (an albumen copy print) in the “Album Fotográfico de la Ciudad de Mexico” by Jules Michaud.

There is quite a few mysteries behind this photograph:

Palacio de Mexico, 1858. View of the National Palace from the north.

Photograph attributed to Désiré Charnay by the Getty Research Institute: Palacio de Mexico and dated 1858. View of the National Palace from the north.                                                                                         (http://hdl.handle.net/10020/95_r_36_7)

Palacio de Mexico, 1851. View of the National Palace from the north.

Palacio de Mexico, c. 1851. The same image, credited to Jules Michaud found in a private collection.

The photograph above is, more often than not, attributed to Désiré Charnay. However, we have found in Mexico one copy of the “Album Fotográfico de la Ciudad de Mexico”  that states the author was not Charnay but Jules Michaud.

One photograph, two credits. Who is the real author? And what about the date ?

We decided to do some research, here are our results:

  • During the first half of the XIX century, the National Palace looked damaged and forgotten, being in 1852 restored under the orders of Mariano Arista (President of Mexico from 15 January 1851 to 6 January 1853), opening a third door on the north side of the facade. This door, known as the Mariana Door, was named in honor of Mariano Arista. The military-style fortified tower on top of the door was not constructed until the mid 1860s. If we compare the photographs above with the ones below, we clearly see that the Puerta Mariana does not appear on the photograph in question at the beginning of the post. So this photograph can not be dated 1858, but BEFORE 1852! (http://www.hacienda.gob.mx/cultura/museo_virtual_pal_nac/shcp_mv.htm)
  • We know for a fact that Charnay first arrived in Mexico in 1857. The image above had to be taken at the latest in 1852, considering that the Puerta Mariana (illustrated below) was build during that year. Therefore, ruling out Charnay as the author…
Building la Puerta Mariana, Palacio de Mexico, 1851. View of the National Palace from the north. Photo by Julio Michaud.

Building the tower above the Puerta Mariana, Palacio de Mexico, c. 1865.  Photo by Jules Michaud found in a private collection.

Palacio de Mexico. View of the National Palace from the north.

Palacio de Mexico, with the Puerta Mariana behind the carriage, c. 1868. Photo by Jules Michaud found in a private collection.

  • On the other hand we know that Jules Michaud was active in Mexico City between the 1830s until the 1860s. He was a photographer, dealer in photographic stock, publisher of lithographs and bookseller. During that time he also sold photographic chemicals, and often made trips to Paris where he could have gotten the knowledge necessary to learn how to print on paper.

A big archive of Michaud’s works of art can be found at the Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM, Mexico City, but no paper negative is described.

The discovery that the picture has to be from 1852 at the latest, and that it is Michaud’s image, changes dramatically what we thought we knew about paper photographs in Mexico. Before Désiré Charnay and Pal Rosti’s arrival in Mexico in 1857 there are very few known images on paper; up until then they were almost all daguerreotypes.

This picture that we have attributed to Jules Michaud and dated prior to 1852 has a strong possibility of being the oldest photograph on paper from Mexico.