Gustave Le Gray - The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1 New York Monday, April 3, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Daniel Wolf, Inc., New York
    Ezra Mack, New York, 1993

  • Exhibited

    The Art of Photography: 150 Years, 1839-1989, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 11 February- 30 April 1989; Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 17 June- 27 August 1989; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 23 September- 23 December 1989; Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, 3 March- 1 April 1990

  • Literature

    Weaver, ed., The Art of Photography, 1839-1989, pl. 94 (this print)
    Janis, The Photography of Gustave Le Gray, p. 98
    Apraxine, Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company, pl. 31
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection, no. 58

  • Catalogue Essay

    Additional prints of this image with slight variations in cropping are in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

    Le Gray was at the height of his career in the late 1850s when he received a series of important commissions from the French royal court, a mark of his achievement as a photographer. The first was to photograph Emperor Napoléon’s wife, Eugénie, as a study for a painted portrait, and later their infant son, the Imperial prince. The more challenging commission was to photograph military maneuvers northwest of Paris, at Camp de Châlons sur Marne. A training ground for the French army, the camp also served as the site of parades and military demonstrations staged for the public, with the royal family in attendance.

    According to a contemporary account, Le Gray was charged with “the photographic representation of the main military scenes of which the camp was the theater, along with a panoramic view of the camp, picturesque scenes of each of the guards’ encampments, and portraits of the generals and field officers, both French and foreign” (Aubenas, p. 131). Le Gray captured all of this to the letter, producing a compelling series of military photographs, somewhat remarkably, during peacetime. His pictures depict the exoticism of Zouave soldiers, the elegance of the officers’ appointments, and most dramatically, the large-scale manoeuvers of the soldiers and cavalry.

    Chronicling the movements of distant battalions across the vast open expanse of the camp would have been a challenge for any photographer, and the cumbersome nature of the wet-plate glass negative process would have limited Le Gray’s mobility substantially. The dust raised by the troops and horses would have both limited visibility and presented a constant danger to the tacky surfaces of Le Gray’s glass negatives. In the image offered here, Le Gray has surpassed these hurdles to create a minimalist tour-de-force.


Cavalry Maneuvres, Camp de Châlons

Albumen silver print.
10 1/8 x 13 1/8 in. (25.7 x 33.3 cm)

$70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for $106,250

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The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1

New York 3 April 2017