Our Photo of the Month features a pre 1864 tinted lantern slide image of La Müotta village in the Graübunden (also known as Grisons) Canton of eastern Switzerland.
Although sold by the noted photographic firm of J Levy of Paris, we know from the slide number of 4017 that it appeared in a catalogue of images available from 1864. This then dates the slide to a previous business entity of “Ferrier pere, fils & Soulier”.
Claude-Marie Ferrier and Charles Soulier produced an extraordinary array of high quality views taken around the Continent, interestingly most being taken in stereoscopic format. While prints were sold as high quality glass or card stereoscopic 3D views, traditional lantern slides were of necessity sold as single images. A stereoscopic black and white print of this same image has in fact been located. After 1910 when demand for the larger glass stereoscopic views had declined it was the substantial sales of the ever popular single image magic lantern slide which helped to maintain the viability of the company – and the continued existence of the negatives.
What greatly intrigues us is that our slide has been delicately hand tinted. We are however unable to find a reference to J Levy undertaking such work although that would now appear likely. While the rear of the slide also bears the name of “WC Hughes” of Kingsland Road, London, this is more likely to only indicate that they possibly sold the slide case as Hughes were only manufacturers and retailers of photographic equipment.
Our “J Levy” collection comprises seven other slides taken around Italy, two of these also being hand tinted. The catalogue numbers date the remaining slides as early as 1853. What astonishes us is the clarity of these early black and white views which emphasizes the exceptionally high quality work produced by Messrs Ferrier and Soulier. The original glass plate stereoscopic negatives apparently survive substantially intact in the Roger-Viollet Collection now held by the City of Paris.
By Donald Cochrane
Curator of Photographs