Post Mortem by Le Blondel

Vintage half plate albumen print from collodion negative circa 1853, depicting a deceased girl surrounded by toys, a doll, and play implements, by Alphonse Le Blondel, Lille, France. With traces of applied color in blue, subtly hand-signed on the image in brown ink, "Le Blondel, Lille." On thin period board with evidence of having been originally housed in a half plate passe-partout wall mount. Print size 5.5 x 4.25 inches (14x11 cm).   Price: $1,850.   ( Inventory# ic691 )

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An outstanding and extremely rare, early example of Le Blondel's post-mortem work from the daguerreian era. Another example which springs to mind is of course Le Blondel's magnificent post-mortem daguerreotype in the Gilman Collection, now Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated in The Waking Dream (1993). This early albumen print is one of the few other examples of Le Blondel's post mortem images I have seen. Like its daguerreian cousin it bears Le Blondel's hand-signature subtly placed within the image.

An oval ring of darkening at center of the image and, on the reverse, remains of the small adhesive "stamps" frequently used to fasten French daguerreotype plates into passe-partout mounts indicate that this image, too, was once housed in a passe-partout style wall-mount. This early and relatively uncommon method of presenting salt and albumen prints was a transitional form, from the early period when salt and albumen printing was still conceptualized as a modified form of the daguerreotype. Le Blondel, an enthusiastic pioneer in these new processes, offered daguerreotype portraits in Lille as early as 1842, in 1846 he was among the first in France to offer salt paper prints to his clients, and by 1853 he worked with wet collodion negatives and the albumen process. (See Le Blondel: Un Regard Photographique sur Lille au XIXe Siecle (2005): pp. 113, 114, 117, 173. )

This rich image clearly dates from the earliest period of Le Blondel's albumen work. Its dramatic use of focus and non-focus, bright glares of light contrasting with black swaths of darkness, calls to mind the aesthetic qualities of a strong daguerreotype plate. Similarly, with its collection of toys from the deceased child's life-world -- a very humble grouping -- it calls to mind the contrast of life shadowed by death -- of this world, and "that shore from which no traveler returns."

Condition: Overall excellent print with rich, dark tones, some yellowing of highlights, scattered light stains.

 

Last updated March 22, 2017

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