Sunday, June 03, 2007

Another attic treasure

Just as we wrote about one attic treasure of photography, another one came to light.

The oldest commercially built photo camera, a so-called Daguerrotype Susses Freres was auctioned at Vienna's WestLicht gallery and auction house on May 26 for EU 588,613 ($ 792,333), making it the most expensive camera ever sold.

The Vienna camera is the only known example of its kind. Before it was found gathering dust in an attic in Munich, Germany, it was regarded a myth among photography experts, any evidence of its existence lost for the past 170 years.

Invented by French chemist Lois Daguerre, a daguerreotype is an early type of photograph. It produces a direct image on a polished silver surface that bears a coating of silver halide particles, deposited by iodine bromide or chlorine vapors. As there was no negative original like in modern photography, no copies of pictures could be made.

The camera on auction in Vienna was first advertised for sale on September 5, 1839, weeks before another Daguerrotype, produced by Daguerre's brother-in-law, Alphonse Giroux was commercially available.

The Giroux Daguerrotype is widely regarded as the first commercially produced camera. Around 10 of those cameras still exist in museums worldwide.

The camera in Saturday's auction was sold to an online bidder, who wished to remain anonymous, WestLicht said in a press release. Bidders from Korea, Japan, the United States and France participated in the auction.

Starting price was at 100,000 euros. Ahead of the auction some experts expected an even higher price, but for WestLicht owner Peter Coeln the price fetched was already "sensational."

WestLicht, a small private photo gallery and auction house, organizes photographica auctions twice a year.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Attic Treasure of Photography

Since this blog is titled "Treasures of the Old Attic", naturally the could not pass a story about the most recent attic treasure. This treasure is as real as can be and, a bit contrary to the article below, experts estimate the market value of each of its pieces at a six-figure sum.

Just how much cash they might have raised no one can say, but for students of photography the three glass-plate images that Charlotte Albright found in her attic in Buffalo, New York state, last summer are little short of priceless. Happily, the pictures are not bound for an auction house but rather the venerable George Eastman House museum in Rochester, which will display them this autumn. They are remarkable in many ways, not least because they are by Edward Steichen and - though a century old - are in colour.

As is often the case with such discoveries, Ms Albright, a 96-year-old artist, did not realise what she had fallen upon when she found the three plates in storage in her home. She knew they came from her mother, Charlotte Spaulding, a photographer herself, and assumed she had taken them.

But happily she instructed her lawyer to donate the three plates to the Eastman House. When he handed them to the museum's director, Anthony Bannon, in the car park of a Buffalo ice-cream parlour, the truth emerged. One was signed by the legendary Steichen.

It turns out, in fact, that two of the plates are portraits of Ms Spaulding, made by Steichen. That the oeuvre of Steichen, who after the Second World War became director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York until 1962, should now have two new additions is an event in itself. Last year, a platinum print taken by him in 1904 in Connecticut, The Pond - Moonlight, set a record for any photograph at auction, attracting a bid of nearly $3m at Sotheby's.

"It is so rare that one has a chance to add imagery to an artist's oeuvre, never mind one of the stature of Steichen," Mr Bannon told The New York Times. "You think the ground has been pretty well covered, and then you find something like this."

The miracle of these plates is that Ms Albright, who probably acquired them in 1939 when her mother died, kept them all this time storedin the dark. Any prolonged exposure to light would have led to a dimming of the colours. For the same reason, the Eastman House plans only to put them on display for a limited time, probably only a few weeks in October, on a light table, before putting them away to ensure preservation.

So did Mr Bannon celebrate the find with a large sundae at the ice-cream place? "With a couple of century-old autochromes in my car, I wasn't going anywhere but directly back to the museum," he said flatly. "And I was driving very, very carefully."


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Artist William H. Barribal and his postcards

William H. Barribal (1873 - 1956) was a London artist who began his career as a lithographer before going on to study at the Paris Academie Julien.

Becoming an accomplished painter and designer by the first quarter of the 20th century, Barribal created such memorable images as posters for the Schweppes advertising campaign and the Waddingtons playing cards series, which are avidly collected today. He is also well-known for the bold Art Deco posters designed in 1920s and 1930s for the London North Eastern Railway.

Barribal also worked for various magazines, including the fashion champion Vogue, and between 1919 and 1938 regularly exhibited his work. His images of exquisite and fashionable Edwardian women have become classics and the work of many a modern fashion artist shows traces of the unmistakable "Barribal style".

It is only natural that late 1910s-1930s postcard publishers ranging from the famed M. Munk and Bruder Kohn of Vienna to London's Inter-Art Publishing Co. and Valentine's took pride in issuing postcards that featured Barribal's Art Deco images of beautiful women. Today these postcards are highly collectable and are considered to represent some of the finest examples of artist-signed glamour postcards.

Judging by the 2007 auction sales, a typical Barribal watercolor like the one shown below would sell for around $ 950 including buyer's premium:

Yet Barribal postcards are much more convenient for a collector - these small masterpieces demand much less place and are far more affordable. The price range for vintage Barribal postcards is between $ 17.50 to $ 30.00, depending on the image and condition. The image of the bathing belle above and those below are among some fine Barribal cards which have recently arrived in our store.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Security Advisory: New eBay Fraud Method Detected

After a somewhat lengthy absence caused by work overload, we're back with a promise to constantly update this blog with exciting new stuff -- but first things first, and that is a security advisory concerning a new online fraud method involving eBay.
This technique of the never-tiring fraudsters involves sending an unsuspecting eBay seller a message purportedly related to some sale debate. Typically, it would resemble a proper eBay message and read something like, User so-and-so has left you a message... Please click here to respond... The link would then take a seller to a fake site reproducing eBay graphics and designed to learn eBay account password and other sensitive information.
As usual, the best way to recognize a fraudulent e-mail is to carefully check the eBay number of bogus "disputed item", or right-click on e-mail headline and hit "Properties", which would give a very good idea where mail really came from. The same procedure can be repeated with the actual link contained in the e-mail without any attempt at opening it. It is crucial not to attempt to open any links in any suspicious mails; sellers should remember that communication concerning any trading disputes or questions from potential buyers should better be conducted from the eBay site.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas card for $ 16,000

A 162-year-old Christmas card -- one of the first ever printed -- sold at an auction over the weekend for $16,000.
The hand-colored card, which shows a family celebrating around a table, is one of about 10 surviving from an original batch of 1,000 printed in 1843, auctioneer Henry Aldridge said.
The cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, a Londoner who is generally recognized as the inventor of the commercial Christmas card.
The card was bought at the auction in the town of Devizes in southern England by Jakki Brown, editor and co-owner of "Progressive Greetings" magazine and general secretary of the Greeting Card Association.
Aldridge said he was "pleased with the price and that the card is staying in this country within the greetings card industry."
The card was originally sent to a Miss Mary Tripsack, a close friend of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the wife of the poet Robert Browning.
"We don't know who sent it to Miss Tripsack. We can only assume that they must have been of means, as cards were a novelty at the time," Aldridge said.
John Calcott Horsley, a British painter, designed the card for Cole, who was the first director of London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
Cole printed 1,000 of the cards on a lithograph stone before having them hand-colored.
The card drew some criticism from Victorians because it shows some members of the family enjoying a glass of wine, but that did not keep the practice of sending cards from catching on.
Although wood engravers produced prints with religious themes in Europe in the Middle Ages, the first commercial Christmas and New Year's cards are believed to have been produced by Cole in 1843.