Sotheby’s Spring Photographs Auction On Tueday 13 April 2010, Sotheby's will offer at auction a remarkable selection of Photographs that ranges from examples of some of the earliest photographs made in America.
was sold at the end of that decade to the Library of Congress and the George Eastman House. Sotheby's auction includes images that showcase Mr. Belcher's sophisticated aesthetic sensibilities and his uncanny ability to source truly great outdoor views, occupational studies, and portraits.
Among these is a full-length portrait of the important Seneca figure Caroline Parker ($25/35,000, above right). Born on the Tonawanda reservation in western New York around 1826, Parker came from a family of great importance in the Seneca Nation, a member of the Iroquois Confederacy. Along with her brother, Ely S. Parker – who would go on to a distinguished military career, serving as a general in the Union Army under Grant – Caroline Parker was literate and well-educated and served as a translator for the Seneca. She collaborated extensively with the father of American anthropology, Lewis Henry Morgan, and much of the information contained in Morgan's The League of the Ho-de-sau-nee or Iroquois (1851) was largely gleaned through Parker and her brother. The clothing Parker wears in this daguerreotype, with its elaborate traditional beadwork and embroidery, was made by Parker herself, and is now in the collection of the New York State Museum, Albany. The David Belcher Collection also includes a quintessential portrait of a Californian Gold Miner ($20/30,000), or 'Forty-Niner,' posing with pickaxe and pan. There are a number of rare occupational studies of tradesmen made in their places of work – an extreme rarity in the daguerreian era – including a Carpenter and His Tools ($5/7000), a Dry Goods Store and its Shopkeepers ($10/15,000). Other daguerreotypes include a portrait of John A. P. Fisk ($7/10,000), a noted New York City restaurateur; a sublime dual portrait of a Man and His Dog ($10/15,000, above left); and a conceptually astute house-eye view of a Painter on a Ladder ($7/10,000), among many others. One of the earliest forms of photography, the daguerreotype flourished in America in the 1840s and 1850s before being succeeded by cheaper and more reproducible types of photography. Each daguerreotype is a unique image, and is made upon a silver-plated sheet of copper, sensitized with iodine, developed with mercury vapor, and enclosed within a case which protects its delicate surface.
In 1995, Sotheby's offered daguerreotypes from the collection of Stanley Yalkowsky, a New York City lawyer who quietly built a worldclass collection in the early 1970s. That sale inaugurated a new era in the auction market for 19th-century photography, and for daguerreotypes in particular. Sotheby's is pleased to offer a further selection of images from Mr. Yalkowsky's collection, among them an arresting Portrait of a Baker ($10/15,000, right) with rolling pin and dough. Daguerreotypes from other collections include one of the earliest known photographs of Chicago ($30/50,000, left), which shows the Exchange Bank Building on the corner of Lake and Clark Streets. Using the signs of businesses visible in the image, and crossreferencing these with Chicago city directories of the period, Sotheby's was able to determine that this daguerreotype was made in either 1854