Selected Images from Asile Impériale de Vincennes

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  • Provenance

    Christie's, South Kensington, 5 May 2000, lot 179

  • Literature

    Borcoman, Charles Nègre, 1820-1880, pls. 174, 176, 180, 181
    Jammes, Charles Négre Photographe 1820-1880, pls. 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, figs. 19, 20
    some variant croppings

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the late 1850s Nègre received a commission to photograph the Imperial Asylum at Vincennes. The facility had been created under the auspices of Napoleon III and served as a convalescent home for injured or ailing workers. Nègre transformed the assignment into an opportunity to showcase his abilities as a photographer. The resulting photographs are characterized by Nègre’s keen eye for composition and his ability to photograph in less-than-optimal conditions. The limited sensitivity of the photographic materials available at the time made working indoors a challenge. Nègre compensated by using a smaller camera for the interior views, making full use of the sunlight streaming through the building’s windows, and deftly incorporating shadows into his compositions. Nègre’s interior views are technical tours-de-force as well as sensitively-rendered studies of the passage of sunlight through the Asylum’s rooms.

    Nègre’s Asylum commission also showcased his skill at handling large groups of people within a photographic composition. Earlier in his career he had made studies of individuals and groups in his courtyard on the Île Saint-Louis and on the streets of Paris. In his Asylum views he arranges people with practiced assurance, and his subjects appear natural and at-home in their sun-drenched surroundings.

    This selection of Nègre’s Vincennes photographs was purchased in 2000 and is believed to be the largest group of these images to have appeared at auction. Included are some of Nègre’s best photographs from the series, including his interior views of the Asylum’s kitchen, apothecary, laundry, and refectory. Nègre trimmed many of the prints to a circular format which has the effect of encasing and accentuating his careful compositions.

115

Selected Images from Asile Impériale de Vincennes

1858-1859
Twenty-nine albumen prints.
Varying dimensions from 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 in. (13.3 x 13.3 cm) to 16 7/8 x 13 1/8 in. (42.9 x 33.3 cm)
Each variously signed in ink on the recto or on the mount.

Estimate
$50,000 - 70,000 

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Rachel Peart
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Vanessa Hallett
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The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation

New York 3 October 2017