Large Folio, Albumen silver print photograph image of Pohono, the Bridal Veil, Yosemite, California, 900 feet, circa early to mid 1860’s by Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916). Jeff Rosenheim, curator in charge of the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, describes Watkins as, "The consummate photographer of the American West who established his reputation in 1861 with an astonishing series of views of Yosemite Valley. " The image offered here has, what appears to be, its original labeled Victorian Period fluted and reeded walnut frame and wavy blown glass. This majestic scene is one of 36 produced for California State Geographical Survey – Special Collections Library at Stanford University: and exhibited at the recent "Watkins at Yosemite" photograph exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The California photographer was a virtuoso practitioner of the difficult wet-collodion process and the remarkable clarity of his mammoth prints was unmatched in his day. Watkins traveled through extremely steep and hazardous terrain to produce the series of Yosemite Valley. Dozens of mules carrying over 2000 pounds of equipment including Carleton's self-designed oversize camera, large plates and flammable chemicals. Seeing these images, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill in 1864 initiating a template for a National Park System later championed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Watkins early images, like this one, were not signed. The “Bridal Veil Fall, 900 Feet” caption is hand-scripted in quill ink, possibly by the photographer himself. Image size: 20.5” H. by 15.75” wide. Frame size app: 26” by 33.” Good estate condition with a little fading, foxing, waving, etc. consistent with age. The large shadow in the center of the image is from a bubble in the glass. After ferreting it out at a country estate sale, I had it professionally cleaned and authenticated by a top NYC restoration expert recommended by MMA experts. While colleagues like William Jackson and followers like Ansel Adams maintain a gallery of plates that have been respectfully reissued over the years; most of Watkins masters were destroyed in 1909 San Francisco earthquake, making original mammoth folio images exceedingly rare and sought-after. Coupled with their beautiful subtle artistry and historical importance; an antique of this type adds integrity interest to any collection. Large and early Watkins pictures like this one have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction as reported by the Maine Antique Digest. A simple Stereo View CDV of “Upper Yosemite Falls” taken in 1872 brought $4600 at Cowan’s Auction, May 10 2006. Subtle, historic, authentic, naturalistic -- a fine work of art.
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