Image: 13 1/8 × 16 7/8 in. (33.3 × 42.9 cm)
Mount: 21 3/16 in. × 25 in. (53.8 × 63.5 cm)
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Moran Gift, in memory of Louise Chisholm Moran, 2015
Not on view
Between 1857 and 1860, Désiré Charnay traveled throughout Mexico photographing the architectural ruins of ancient sites at Mitla, Palenque, Izamal, Chichén-Itzá, and Uxmal. Funded by the French Ministry of Public Instruction, Charnay’s expedition was inspired by the archeologist John Lloyd Stephens’s book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, illustrated with engravings after daguerreotypes. Charnay captured the same sites using wet collodion glass negatives, and produced a visual record of the region that became the touchstone for subsequent archeologists and photographers working in Central American in the nineteenth century. He published a portfolio of 42 albumen silver prints as Cités et ruines américaines, Mitla, Palenque, Izamal, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal in 1862. This photograph (plate 9) is one of a series of sixteen within the portfolio depicting the five groups of buildings that make up the Zapotec religious center of Mitla. A unique feature of the site’s architecture is the patterned stonework mosaics that cover its tombs, panels, and walls, and which are visible in a frieze adorning the Second Palace. Charnay’s photograph is rich in visual information; the palace seems to emerge from an accumulation of stone and vegetation layered against the stark sky and continuous mountain backdrop. The sweeping horizontality of the picture skillfully reveals the relationship between the structure and its valley setting.
Inscription: Publisher’s printed paper label on mount, recto BL: “Charnay, photogr. Pl. 12. Gide, éditeur, Paris. // DEUXIÈME PALAIS, A MITLA”; no inscriptions or annotations on verso.
[...]; (Christie's, New York, October 9, 1997, lot 126); [Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc.]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photographs. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 69".
Davis, Keith F. Désiré Charnay: Expeditionary Photographer. 1st ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1981. 44-45, fig. 9.
Barthe, Christine, ed. Le Yucatán est Ailleurs: Expéditions Photographiques (1857–1886) de Désiré Charnay. Paris: Musée du Quai Branly, 2007. 30.
Désiré Charnay, Cités et ruines américaines, Mitla, Palenque, Izamal, Chichén Itzá, Uxmal. Paris, Gide, A. Morel & Cie., 1862. pl. 12.