Tag Archives: History

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.



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).





Emperatriz Carlota

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



Calle de Plateros

Calle de Plateros



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



Templo de Santa Gertrudis en Orizaba

Templo de Santa Gertrudis en Orizaba



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 ?

You can also follow us on instagram at gregoryleroyphoto.

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.

José María Lupercio (1870-1927)

Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901. Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901.

La semana pasada adquirimos un álbum de José María Lupercio con 34 fotografías de época de gelatina de plata. El álbum incluye 7 imágenes de tipos y otras escenas populares Mexicanas datadas de 1901.

Casi todas las fotografías encontradas en museos o expuestas recientemente son impresiones hechas a partir de los negativos, pero fotografías antiguas como éstas son poco comunes y por eso su importancia.

Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901.

José María Lupercio, fotógrafo jalisciense de gran trayectoria e impacto en la fotografía nacional mexicana, nació en la ciudad de Guadalajara en el año de 1870. Sus primeros estudios fueron de pintura, realizados en el taller de Félix Bernardelli, donde conocería a Gerardo Murillo (mejor conocido por Dr. Atl), Rafael Ponce de León y Jorge Enciso. Sin embargo, paulatinamente se ocupó del oficio de fotógrafo, sobre todo a raíz de hacerse cargo del taller fotográfico de Octaviano de la Mora. Tiempo después, Lupercio emigró a la ciudad de México, en donde fue designado fotógrafo del Museo Nacional, cargo que desempeñó hasta su muerte ocurrida en 1927.

Lupercio dejó un amplio acervo de imágenes de mucha importancia, tanto por su aportación estética a la disciplina, como por su valor documental y patrimonial. Se cree que estas fotografías fueron tomadas en Guadalajara antes de 1902, fecha en la que José María Lupercio emigró a la ciudad de México.

Aquí compartimos con ustedes varias de nuestras imágenes favoritas para que las puedan disfrutar.

Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901. Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901. Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901. Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901. Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901. Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901. Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901.

Tipos y escenas culturales mexicanas. 1901.


Olivier Debroise

Fuga Mexicana.

Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes.

Mexico, 1994.


Emma Cecilia García Krinsky

Imaginarios y fotografía en México, 1839-1970.

Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes

Mexico, 2005

Archaeological Complex of Tiwanaku

Ciudad arqueológica de Tiwanaku.

Archaeological site of Tiwanaku.

Contrary to most of our latest posts, more or less informed, this one is a cry for help.

A few months ago we found these gelatin silver prints on matte paper, dated circa 1930s,  of the archaeological site of Tiwanaku.

Nestled in a Bolivian highland valley 13,000 feet above sea level, the broad altiplano of Tiwanaku is defined on three sides by mountain ranges and on the fourth by Lake Titicaca.

Detalle de la Puerta del Sol, Tiwanaku.

Detail of Puerta del Sol, Tiwanaku.

Through the years it’s been photographed and studied by many archaeologists, photographers and explorers; and with the help of the “Pioneer Photography in Bolivia: Directory of Daguerreotypists and Photographers, 1840s-1930s” by Daniel Buck we were able to make a list of names worth looking into. Names such as Arthur Posnansky, Miguel Chani, Erich Arendt, Hans Helfritz, Sintich Hermanos, Wendell Bennett, and others.

Going through dozens of books about Tiwanaku and Bolivia at the library of the Quai Branly museum, we found out that most of these people did visit and photograph the site but at the end of the XIX century and beginning of the XX century. The list of names is long, and for more than a few of them we could not find any reproduction of their work.

Iglesia de Tiwanaku.

The Tiwanaku Church was build in 1612. Two monoliths, extracted from the ruins of Tiwanaku, adorn the entrance of the church as a way to give Catholic authority to the natives and invite them to the new religion.

There is written evidence that shows that Posnansky was in Tiwanaku at the end of the 1920s but unfortunately we couldn’t find any photo material from this era, not even in his final and most important book, Tihuanacu, the Cradle of American Man. In the beginning of 2014, eleven thousand documents and photographs from Arthur Posnansky were recovered, however, the photos are dated 1900.

Ciudad arqueológica de Tiwanaku.

Ciudad arqueológica de Tiwanaku.

After not finding any helpful information in books we turned to the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore in Bolivia (Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore – MUSEF) without much luck either. Several emails to different staff members and directors were unanswered.

None of our photographs were found at the Museum of Natural History/South American Archaeological Collection, at the Brooklyn Museum, or at the Quai Branly.

Ciudad arqueológica de Tiwanaku.

Archaeological city of Tiwanaku.

Ciudad arqueológica de Tiwanaku.

Archaeological city of Tiwanaku.

In our opinion, a lot of these images have a certain aesthetic and sensitivity that we think someone just studying the complex would not necessarily have. They feel more artistic.

Tiwanaku is without a doubt the most important archaeological site in Bolivia. We will be very thankful if anyone has any idea of who could’ve been the photographer or suggestions on where to look further.

Detalle de la ciudad arqueológica de Tiwanaku.

Detail of the archaeological site of Tiwanaku.

Who was J. Buil?

Gran Fotografía Buil

Interior del Hospital Vargas. Departamento de mujeres, Caracas.

Interior del Hospital Vargas. Departamento de mujeres, Caracas. Estereoscopio Venezolano.                                    Interior of Hospital Vargas. Women department, Caracas. Venezuelan stereoscope.

During the last month we have contacted different collections, scholars and specialists of the history of photography in Venezuela to try and find information on photographer J. Buil. So far, this man remains a complete mystery… so much so that we do not know his first name or where he came from.

Based on what was printed on the back, we know that this stereoscopic view was intended for commercial use and that it was part of a series of at least 31 views. Until today we have not found any other.

Besides the information on the reverse of this stereoview, the only other information on Buil that we have found has been on the book Historia Documentada de la Fotografía en Venezuela, where Manuel Barroso states that in 1890 Próspero Rey associated with Buil to form a photography studio, which they named “Buil y Rey.” Barroso also wrote that “their photographs would be distinguished by their sepia tonalities.” However, we don’t have a specific date of when they disolved their partnership.

Looking at the technique and the paper used we can establish that this albumen print was made in the early 1890s – definitely after 1891 considering that the Hospital Vargas in Caracas was inaugurated in January 1, 1891 and open to the public on July 5 of that same year.

Here is a lose translation of what is written on the verso:

GRAN FOTOGRAFIA BUIL – Pajaritos a La Palma 20, Caracas

The “Venezuelan Stereoscope” has yet to be published, so my intention is to offer it to the public so they can see through it – without having to leave their home – how many notable things are in this beautiful country.

On it you will find buildings, panoramic views, types, customs and landscapes. Under the recreational point of view, it will be indispensable in all the living rooms for being a very fun hobby, while at the same time appreciating the geography of the Republic. Lawyers, doctors and dentists will quench the impatience of their clients by putting at their disposal the, oh so interesting, stereoscope.

The families that have children being educated in Europe and other far away countries, as well as the foreigners that want to show their relatives overseas the country where they live, couldn’t send them a better souvenir.

When the number of subscribers permits us to make the necessary expenses, each view will have on the reverse a review of what it represents. If it’s a landscape of a population, it will have the geographic and historical data, as well as observations about the temperature, etc.

I hope that progressive people will support this publication, which will help me let the rest of the world know one of the most rich and picturesque countries that exists.

With the purpose of facilitating the acquisition of the collection “Venezuelan Stereoscope”, for those who prefer to not pay the full collection at once I have decided to make it possible for you to get five and ten views every month, only paying those that you will receive monthly.

The first month you will have to pay the price for the stereoscopic apparatus, which is valued in six bolívares. Each view of the collection is worth one bolívar. People who take fifty views at once will receive the stereoscopic apparatus for free.

I truly appreciate your support for my enterprise.

Yours sincerely, J. Buil

Interior del Hospital Vargas. Departamento de mujeres.

Interior del Hospital Vargas. Departamento de mujeres, Caracas. Estereoscopio Venezolano.

Have you ever heard about J. Buil? If you have any information about him we would love to hear about it. Write us an email or simply comment below! Remember we accept contributions in Spanish, English or French, and don’t forget to sign up in order to receive notifications of new posts by email.


Update on the Caracas-La Guaira Railway in the XIX century post: Thanks to Lisa Blackmore we were able to establish that the railway photographs were taken by José Antonio Salas. On her website she has a post about a book called “Illustrated Guide to Caracas (1889)”; we were able to match image 13, where it is clearly stated that the photographer was Salas, to one of our own. Image 9 is also the same as our view of La Guaira, which is credited to V. Amato.

Salas is considered to have been the official photographer of the regime of Guzmán Blanco.