Tag Archives: XIX Century

Issues of Authorship in 19th Century Mexican Photography

Ancien mexicana cargando leña by François Aubert

Getty Research Institute: Ancien mexicana cargando leña by François Aubert circa 1865 and 1867.

For years photography researchers have struggled with the oh, so familiar question: who is the author of this photograph? Who is the person responsible for the intellectual content of an image? Who are the rightful owners of the images: the photographer or those who publish them? We’re not going to delve too deep into that subject and try to find the right answers to those questions, but we’ve found ourselves right smack in the middle of this ongoing debate.

This is a difficult post to write because unfortunately we have more open-ended questions than answers for our recent discoveries.

Firstly, we will state the facts and later we will list all the questions.

Fact #1: Photographers have never been very good at registering their own work since the beginning of the craft in 1839. At this time it was editors and publishers whom were more likely to do so; hence the confusion about a lot of signatures and authorship.

Fact #2: There is an album called “Souvenir du Mexique, circa 1860” found in a private collection in Mexico with 29 albumen prints. In most of these prints we can find descriptions, annotations or signatures by photographers François Aubert and J.J. Buis. 17 of these photographs are attributed to J.J. Buis.

Fact #3: There is an album with 17 albumen prints at the Société française de photographie (SFP) in Paris credited to J.J. Buis. The album is called “Vues du Mexique.” 16 of these prints’ titles match the ones in the album “Souvenir du Mexique, circa 1860”. However, of the 17, only one is signed by J.J. Buis: Village de Miacatlan, 32 lieux de Mexico (Fig. 2); none are credited to Aubert.

Village de Miacatlan, 32 lieux de Mexico.

Fig. 1 – SFP: Village de Miacatlan, 32 lieux de Mexico. Signed by J.J Buis.

Fig 2 - Private Mexican Collection: Village de Miacatlan, 32 lieux de Mexico. Signed also by Buis.

Fig 2 – Close up of signature. Private Mexican Collection: Village de Miacatlan, 32 lieux de Mexico. Signed by J.J. Buis.

Fact #4: A decade worth of SFP bulletins were searched to establish the provenance of the album “Vues du Mexique”. Buis was never a member of the SFP and we do not know who donated it.

Fact #5: Several photographs from these two albums have been found in others credited to Désiré Charnay or Julio Michaud. However, we found a signature by Alphonse Pestel. You can see an example of this with fig. 4 and fig. 5.

Mexico. Vue prise sur les terrasses.

Fig 4 – Musée du Quai Branly: Mexico. Vue prise sur les terrasses. By Désiré Charnay.

Mexico. Vue prise sur les terrasses.

Fig 4 – Private Mexican Collection: Mexico. Vue prise sur les terrasses. Credited to Charnay but signed by Pestel.

Mexico. Vue prise sur les terrasses.

Fig 5 – Close up on signature of fig. 4.

Fact #6: Alphonse Pestel was a French photographer active in the 1860s and 1870s. He had a studio in Paris in 3, Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle. Of J.J. Buis, we have no further information.

Pestel's signature.

Fig. 6 – Close up of Pestel’s signature on a different photograph.

Fact #7: In the Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint we can find the photograph “Mexico= Capilla protestante en Sn Francisco” (fig. 7) attributed to Charnay but signed by Pestel. At the Museum Quai Branly the same image is called “Mexico. Portail de San Francisco” (fig. 8) and it is credited to Charnay. However, this one does not have the Pestel signature. We can find it for a third time at the Getty’s archive but this time captioned Puerta de San Francisco, [between 1865 and 1867]” (fig. 9) with the author as Pestel.

To our knowledge, the Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint has never mentioned Pestel in their findings and studies. And neither has the Quai Branly in their research about Charnay.

"Mexico= Capilla protestante en Sn Francisco-"

Fig. 7 – UNAM, Archivo Fotográfico Manuel Toussaint: “Mexico= Capilla protestante en Sn Francisco-” by Charnay.

Mexico. Portail de San Francisco

Fig. 8 – Musée du Quai Branly: Mexico. Portail de San Francisco by Charnay.

Puerta de San Francisco, [between 1865 and 1867]

Fig 9 – Getty Research Institute: Puerta de San Francisco, [between 1865 and 1867] by Pestel.

Fact #8: The photographs signed by Pestel always seem to be copy prints of larger prints. He is known to have published several cartes de visite of Mexico. The Getty also has an album titled “Mexique, 1865., [1864-ca. 1867]where the contributors are, E. Leroy, Pestel, and François Aubert. No digital reproductions of this album are available.

Fact #9: Some of the photographs in all these albums and collections have been credited to five different photographers: Désiré Charnay, Julio Michaud, François Aubert, Alphonse Pestel and J.J. Buis. For example: some Charnay signed by Pestel, thought to be Auber signed by Buis.

Here is a more visual representation of the connections between them:

Michaud – Charnay

Charnay – Pestel

Auber – Buis

Buis – Michaud

 

Queries:

-Who is J.J. Buis? What is his connection to François Aubert? What is the provenance of the album at the SFP? How is a photograph from Buis/Aubert found in an album by Michaud? Was Buis ever in Mexico?

-When did Pestel arrive to Mexico? When did he leave? What was he doing there? Why and how is Pestel linked to Michaud? Did he actually work in Mexico or just copy larger prints by Charnay and Aubert?

One thing we do believe (even with no exact proof) is that neither Pestel nor Buis were the authors of any of these images. So then, who was? We think most of Buis’s, if not all, are by Aubert and most of Pestel’s, if not all, are by Charnay.


If you’re interested in a deeper study of this subject we recommend a very interesting read in Spanish on the construction of social history with the help of photography written by Fernando Aguayo Hernández, professor and researcher at the Instituto Mora Area of Oral History in Mexico. Starting on page 15 of the pdf he undertakes the subject of authorship vs publishing; and in page 18 he writes about Michaud as an editor and the reproduction of images by different people, including Pestel.

Rare Views of Caracas circa 1880

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As a Carnaval gift to all our Caraqueños friends we are happy to share with you this wonderful album of early Venezuelan photographs.

Although the prints were clearly made in France as indicated by the credit of a Parisian photography agency and the written captions in French, we just acquired this album from an Argentinian private collection.

The quality of conservation and the beauty of the images is astonishing. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we have.

Especially moving for all Caraqueños is the very rare view of a small village, 15km from the city, called Petare.

We are still working on the attribution but were too giddy with the album to not share it quickly. We will keep you informed of our findings…

Caracas

Caracas vue prise de la promenade du Calvaire. (Sud-Est). Le théâtre – L’Église de l’assomption. / View of Caracas taken from the promenade of El Calvario. (South-East). The theatre – La Iglesia de la Asunción.

Caracas vue prise de la promenade du Calvaire. (Sud-Est). Le théâtre – L’Église de l’assomption. / View of Caracas taken from the promenade of El Calvario. (South-East). The theatre – La Iglesia de la Asunción.

Caracas vue prise de la promenade du Calvaire. (Sud-Est). Le théâtre – L’Église de l’assomption. / View of Caracas taken from the promenade of El Calvario. (South-East). The theatre – La Iglesia de la Asunción.

Detail of the image above.

Caracas vue prise à l’ouest de la promenade du Calvaire. Le palais du Congrès. / View to the west of Caracas taken from the promenade of the Calvario. The Palace of Congress.

Caracas vue prise à l’ouest de la promenade du Calvaire. Le palais du Congrès. / View to the west of Caracas taken from the promenade of the Calvario. The Palace of Congress.

Faubourg de Caracas. La route d’Antimano et la vallée du Guayre. / Neighborhood of Caracas. The route to Antimano and the valley of the Guayre.

Faubourg de Caracas. La route d’Antimano et la vallée du Guayre. / Neighborhood of Caracas. The route to Antimano and the valley of the Guayre.

Caracas – La nouvelle route de Santa Lucia. / Caracas – The new route to Santa Lucia.

Caracas – La nouvelle route de Santa Lucia. / Caracas – The new route to Santa Lucia.

Caracas – La nouvelle route de Santa Lucia. / Caracas – The new route to Santa Lucia.

Detail of the image above.

Petare c. 1880

Le bourg de Pétare à 15 kilomètres de Caracas. / The village of Petare 15km from Caracas.

La statue du général Guzmán Blanco, chef du pouvoir exécutif. La façade de l’université à Caracas. / The statue of general Guzmán Blanco, Chief Executive. The façade of the university in Caracas.

La statue du général Guzmán Blanco, chef du pouvoir exécutif. La façade de l’université à Caracas. / The statue of general Guzmán Blanco, Chief Executive. The façade of the university in Caracas.

L’entrée de Caracas par la route de la Palomère (sic.) / The entrance to Caracas from the route of Palomère (sic.)

L’entrée de Caracas par la route de la Palomère (sic.) / The entrance to Caracas from the route of Palomère (sic.)

L’entrée de Caracas par la route de la Palomère (sic.) / The entrance to Caracas from the route of Palomère (sic.)

Detail of the image above.

Le jardin public du Calvaire à Caracas. / The public gardens of the Calvario in Caracas.

Le jardin public du Calvaire à Caracas. / The public gardens of the Calvario in Caracas.

Le square de la place Bolivar à Caracas. / The gardens on Bolivar Square in Caracas.

Le square de la place Bolivar à Caracas. / The gardens on Bolivar Square in Caracas.

Le square de la place Bolivar à Caracas. / The gardens on Bolivar Square in Caracas.

Detail of the image above.

Three Unusual Venezuelan Photographs

Last week was an interesting one for our collection since we found three new images of Venezuela. A rare occurrence…

The first one is a signed and captioned photograph on gelatin printing-out paper by the first Venezuelan photojournalist, Henrique Avril. The photo portrays a homeless family as a consequence of the civil war in 1903. We haven’t been able to find many signed, original photographs by him; we’ve mostly found reproductions of his photographs when they were published in the magazine “El Cojo Ilustrado”. Nevertheless, we are aware that the National Library of Venezuela and the Boulton Foundation have photographs by Avril but we have yet to verify if they are signed or not. Do you know of any other institutions that have original work by Avril?

Familia desamparada. Consecuencias de la guerra. 1903. Foto Avril.

Familia desamparada. Consecuencias de la guerra. 1903. Foto Avril.

The second one in an anonymous stereoscope of the Universidad de Caracas (nowadays the Universidad Central de Venezuela) in 1896, which had established itself in the Convent of San Francisco. After the university relocated to a new campus in 1952, the building became home to the National Academies, or the Palacio de las Academias.

Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1896, Caracas. El Convento de San Francisco fue objeto de una reparación y se convirtió en el Palacio de las Academias.

Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1896, Caracas. El Convento de San Francisco fue objeto de una reparación y se convirtió en el Palacio de las Academias. Photographer unknown.

Of the third, we don’t know much. It is an albumen print of the Morillo Bridge in Valencia. We know it was taken before 1886 because that’s when the tramway construction began, and there is no trace of it anywhere.

Puente Morillo, Valencia, Venezuela.

Puente Morillo, Valencia, Venezuela. Photographer unknown.

If you have any information about any of these photographs, we would love to hear from you.

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.

The Search for Gold in Venezuela – 1875

The following images were taken in 1875 in the mining town of El Callao, Venezuela, then known as Caratal.

Minas del Callao y Caratal, Estado Bolívar, Venezuela. Siglo XIX.

Entrée de la mine. / The entrance to the mine.

We are not surprised by the fact that these photographs surfaced in France since one of the biggest mining companies in the area, Compañía Minera Nacional Anónima El Callao, was created by the Corsican traders Antonio Liccioni and Jean Cagninacci in 1870.

El Callao is a town in the Venezuelan Guiana Highlands. It has been a gold-mining centre since it was founded in 1853; however, it is said that mining in Caratal started as early as 1824 by the indigenous population in this area. The gold rush of 1853 attracted gold-hunting adventurers from England, America, France and the Caribbean islands when it was discovered that these mines contained 1.5 kilograms of gold per ton, when the best gold mines in other parts of the world had only 120 grams of gold per ton.

By 1885 El Callao had become the world’s leading producer of gold – having produced 8.193,510 Kgr of gold that year.

The first gold rush was over by 1899, and the mines were for long thought to be exhausted, but a combination of new technology and high gold prices in the 1970s led to the redevelopment of the mines by CVG (Corporación Venezolana de Guayana) Minerven, a Venezuelan national mining corporation. Since 2009, the gold-mining industry in Venezuela has been steadily deteriorating as production levels continue to fall.

Over the years several explorers and writers have proposed that the area that comprises the mines in El Callao and others mines around it might have been the real mythical city of gold, “El Dorado.”

The photographer is still unknown.

Minas del Callao y Caratal, Estado Bolívar, Venezuela. Siglo XIX.

Mine d’or au Caratal (Venezuela), 1875. / Gold mine in Caratal (Venezuela), 1875.

Minas del Callao y Caratal, Estado Bolívar, Venezuela. Siglo XIX.

Mine d’or du Caratal (Venezuela) / Gold mine of Caratal (Venezuela)

Minas del Callao y Caratal, Estado Bolívar, Venezuela. Siglo XIX.

De Las Tablas à Guasipati – Route pour se rendre aux Mines d’or de l’Yuruari. / From Las Tablas to Guasipati – Road to get to the gold mines of Yuruari.

Minas del Callao y Caratal, Estado Bolívar, Venezuela. Siglo XIX.

Forêt vierge – Guyanne Vénézuelienne, 1875. / Virgin forest – Venezuelan Guiana, 1875.

Minas del Callao y Caratal, Estado Bolívar, Venezuela. Siglo XIX.

Tramway pour transport des quartz du bois. Mine d’or du Caratal. / Tramway to transport quarts from the forest. Gold mind of Caratal.