Tag Archives: Mexico City

Edmond Hamel, pictorialist photographer in Mexico 1903-1919

We just acquired a wonderful album of pictorialist photographs, most of them taken in and around Mexico City between 1908 and 1919. All the photographs are attributed to Edmond Hamel, a French national living in Mexico. As far as we know, all these prints are unique.

Monumento a Colon, Paseo de la Reforma, circa 1915

Little is known about Edmond Hamel. He probably learnt photography in France and settled in Mexico before 1903. Hamel is listed as a “carroceria” (a coachbuilder) in Mexico City in 1903. He stayed there until at least 1919. His whereabouts after that date are unknown.

Self portrait in photo lab, 1918

Those prints predate Hugo Brehme classic pictorialist views by at least a decade, and might even be earlier than Jose Maria Lupercio’s most bucolic views. The album contains 52 prints, in a variety of process : bromoil, silver gelatin and platinium. A few of them are signed and dated.

The album will be visible during the Paris Photo fair on boot D32. You can also follow us on instagram at : gregoryleroyphoto

Street beggar, Mexico, circa 1905

Street beggar, Mexico, circa 1905

Untitled, Mexico, circa 1905

Peasants and Iztaccihuatl, circa 1915

Xochimilco, 1913

Detail of Edmond Hamel signature

Mexican market, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1910

A Mexican beauty, circa 1915

Untitled, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1915

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Pal Rosti in Mexico, 1857-1858

Pal Rosti Barkoczi (also known as Paul de Rosti) was a pioneer of photography in Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico.

View of Mexico City from the Cathedral, 1857-1858

View of Mexico City from the Cathedral, 1857-1858

He was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1830. Rosti studied at the university of Munich School of Science for four years then geography and ethnography in Budapest in 1853. In 1854 and 1855, Rosti is probably in Paris, learning photography. Although he doesn’t appear in the extensive list of Gustave Le Gray students, he certainly learnt his waxed paper negative process. On August 4th 1856 he embarks from le Havre to New York, and travels in the United States as far as Wisconsin. In January 1857 he arrives in Cuba. From there he sailed to Venezuela, travelled South to the Orinoco river, then sailed back to the West Indies, on his way to Veracruz, where he landed on July 28th 1857.

Pal Rosti arrives in Mexico almost four months before Désiré Charnay (who lands in Veracruz in late November). Rosti’s views of the Ciudad de Mexico are therefore the earliest views paper photographs of the city. But it is almost certain that Rosti and Charnay met in Mexico City (more on than in our next post…).

Pal Rosti makes at least 32 negatives during his eight months in Mexico – all of them in Mexico City and between Mexico City and Veracruz.

Salto de Agua, Mexico City, 1857-1858

The Salto de Agua and the Belen aqueduct, Mexico City, 1857-1858

Rosti departs Veracruz on April 7t 1858 and lands on 8 August 1858 in Southampton. From there, it is very likely that he travels to Paris, then Hungary thru Berlin. On November 1st 1858, Rosti visits Alexander Von Humboldt, the inspiration for his travel,  in his house in Berlin and offers him an album of forty seven photographic views (the copy presently at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne). At the beginning of 1859, he exhibits his photographic views of Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico at the National Casino in Budapest.

The Borda gardens, Cuernavaca, 1857-1858

The bindings of all four existing album bear the mark of Despierres from Paris. We therefore know that all prints were made between his arrival in Southampton and his arrival in Berlin. It is more than likely that the prints were also made in Paris – the Le Gray atelier a prime suspect for such a wonderful job. We also know that Rosti had less than three months, between his arrival in England and his meeting with Humboldt, to have the photographs printed and the album bound – including travel time from Southampton to Berlin via Paris. That might explain why so few copies of the album are known.

La Santissima, Mexico City, 1857-1858

Four albums are known, three of which are located in Hungary and one in Germany. The contents of the three albums located in Hungary are not identical. The copy in the National Széchenyi Library which was originally given to the Hungarian National Museum contains 45 prints, the album in the Museum of Photography contains 47 prints, the album of the Loránd Eötvös Geophysical Institute contains 40 prints. The album in Cologne contained 47 prints (with 5 missing today).

Door of the Sagrario, Mexico City, 1857-1858

In the two 47 prints albums, four pictures show parts of Havana, 11 photograph landscapes and buildings in Venezuela, and the remaining 32 from Mexico.

San Antonio waterfall, near Cuernavaca, 1857-1858

El Choro de Regla, 1857-1858

I am very grateful to the Ludwig Museum in Cologne for letting me have a long look at this stunning album.

Tlamanalco, ruins of the colonial church, 1857-1858

The French legation, Mexico City, 1857-1858

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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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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.