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Joachim Bonnemaison collection of panorama photographs, 1803-1998 (bulk 1846-1944)

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Bonnemaison (Joachim) collection

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection, compiled by the French photographer and collector Joachim Bonnemaison, between 1973 and 1997, consists of over 630 photographic and printed panoramic images of cities and sites mainly in Europe, but also in Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. Over half of the photographs are of locales and scenes in France. The majority of the images date between 1846 and 1944. Over fifty panoramas in the collection are the only known copies of the photograph.

Panoramic photographs fulfill the modern desire for wide, sweeping views. The extended prospect of the view is also, in essence, an exploration of space. The collection shows the transformation of the panoramic principle that was embedded in the centuries-old tradition of painted and printed birds-eye views into the newly possible photographic images of the nineteenth century, and offers a variety of understandings of what the genre of panoramas encompasses.

In the late eighteenth century the desire to see more and farther fueled the development of the monumental painted panoramas that became an international craze by the early 1800s. The term panorama was coined by the English painter Robert Barker, who combined the Greek words pan (all) and horama (view) in 1792 to describe his large-scale painting of Edinburgh, which, when hung inside a circular space, enveloped the spectators, who stood in the center of the space, within a 360-degree view. The following year Barker built the first dedicated panorama building in Leicester Square, London to exhibit his panoramas. In short order the panorama became a hugely popular form of mass entertainment. The most common themes for panorama paintings were famous battles, historical scenes, and views of exotic locales. A small number of items in the collection are related to the history of the painted panorama. The collection includes photographs of panorama buildings, as well as ephemera such as a poster advertising Robert Barker's first building in London.

The term panorama quickly passed into everyday usage as a noun whose various meanings included "a complete and comprehensive survey or presentation of a subject" (1800); "an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer" (1802); and "a continuously passing scene; a mental vision in which a series of images passes before the mind's eye" (1813). In one aspect or another, each item in this collection encompasses one or more of these definitions, thereby demonstrating the breadth and scope of the panorama genre.

The immersive experience afforded by the panoramic view became such an essential way of seeing in nineteenth-century visual culture, that by 1845, only six years after the invention of photography, Friedrich von Martens, a young Viennese printmaker working in Paris, patented the first panorama camera. His daguerreotype camera employed a rotating lens and a curved daguerreotype plate. Martens is represented in the collection by his Panorama de Paris, pris des hauteurs de Chaillot, from the early 1840s comprising two aquatint prints (here represented as a joined panorama), as well as by four albumen panoramas from the 1860s.

In the 19th century, photographers often designed and built their own cameras, resulting in a wide array in the format and appearance of panoramic photographs. Panoramic photographs can also be made by piecing together sequential segments of a wide or sweeping scene. A large number of the items in the collection are joined panoramas comprising two or more consecutively shot photographs abutted together to create a panoramic view.

The collection includes photographic prints made in the most popular nineteenth-and early twentieth-century photographic media, as well as in a number of rare and early techniques. Photographic processes present in the collection include salted paper, albumen, collodion, carbon, and gelatin silver prints, as well as cyanotypes. Among the earliest prints in the collection are two salted paper cliché-verre prints from the 1840s by Nevil Story-Maskelyne of lace and ferns respectively, and a William Henry Fox Talbot photogenic drawing of lace from the same period. Although these early photographs are not panoramic, they set the stage for the collection as examples of the earliest photographic ways of seeing.

Several round photographs translate the tradition of tondo painting, wherein a curvilinear image is projected onto a plan, into the medium of photography. They range from architectural views (unusual in tondo painting) such as Thomas Damont Eaton's Castle Acre Priory, Norfolk (circa 1845) and Gustave de Beaucorps' Château d'Amalfi (1859) to Charles Nègre's Trail in the Mountains and Coiled Snake by an unidentified photographer (both circa 1860). Related to tondos, circular anamorphosis photographs are grounded in a long tradition of perspectival paintings and prints. These images, which present their subject matter in a distorted, often unrecognizable form, show the object's true shape when they are viewed from a certain vantage point or with the aid of a curved mirror or other anamorphosic device. Alphonse Mangin, the inventor of the anamorphic lens, is represented in the collection by his Vue panoramique prise de la terrasse du batiment Nord-Est de L'Hotel des Invalides (1878). Other techniques such as the multigraphs, that is multiple images of the same subject seen from various angles through the use of mirrors, by Ricard Opisso (Study of Three Trumpet Players in Two Mirrors, circa 1892-1920) and an unidentified photographer (Portrait of a Man with Hat in Five Different Angles, 1924), and Louis Lumière's 1920 photostereosynthesis portrait of his brother Auguste, seem to push the boundaries of the panorama genre.

There are three rare photographic paper negatives in the collection, two of which were made by Gustave de Beaucorps in 1859 (both the negative and a print of his Oasis de Korah are included), and the third by Léon Méhédin, circa 1862. A small number of contemporary anamorphosis photographs (circa 1990-1998) made by the collector, Joachim Bonnemaison, who experimented with combining reconstructions of 19th century panoramic cameras and digital processing, brings the collection full circle.

The names of the photographers represented in the collection read like a Who's Who of early practitioners and include Edouard Baldus, Felice Beato, Gustave de Beaucorps, Bisson frères, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, Gustave Le Gray, Louis Vignes, Alphonse Mangin, Friedrich von Martens, Charles Marville, Léon Méhédin, Charles Nègre, Pierre Ambroise Richebourg, Thomas Damant Eaton, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, Calvert Richard Jones, Robert Macpherson, Nevil Story-Maskelyn, William Henry Fox Talbot, Giacomo Caneva, Giorgio Sommer, and Jean Laurent. There are 40 Adolphe Braun photographs in the collection. Twentieth-century photographers include Berenice Abbott, Andreas Feininger, Man Ray, Auguste and Louis Lumière, Ricard Opisso, and Renzo Basile. Approximately half of the photographs are by unidentified photographers, many of whom were likely amateurs.

The source of the titles for the individual photographs are noted in the item notes, and are usually found in the negative or written on the piece or mount, or from an exhibition catalog. If no title source is indicated the title was devised by the catalogers. Titles given by Bonnemaison are also considered devised titles. Devised titles are not italicized. The collector's original tranche number and the original box number prior to processing are found at the end of each item note.


Arranged in seven series:
Series I. Africa, 1850-1930;
Series II. Asia, 1844-1916;
Series III. Europe, circa 1830-1998;
Series IV. North America, 1858-1940;
Series V. South America, 1860-1891;
Series VI. Unidentified locations, circa 1850-1891;
Series VII. Panorama paintings, 1803-1900.

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