Apr 27, 2023 - Sale 2634

Sale 2634 - Lot 9

Price Realized: $ 22,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 20,000 - $ 30,000
ROGER FENTON (1819-1869)
Valley of the Shadow of Death. Salted paper print, the image measuring 10> 5/8x14 1/8 inches (27x35.9 cm.), the sheet 19 1/4x24 3/4 inches (48.9x62.9 cm.), with Fenton's letterpress credit, title, the publisher's credit, and publishing date on mount recto. April 23, 1855

Provenance: Lee Gallery, Winchester, Massachusetts

Fenton, one of the great photographers of 19th-century England, and perhaps the most influential of the 1850s, was commissioned by the publisher Thomas Agnew & Sons to cover the Crimean War. Hoping that the images would reassure the public, the British government supported the project.

Fenton created a mobile darkroom for his work in the inhospitable conditions of war, including the management of large-format glass plates, extreme temperatures, and battle (Fenton would leave the region having experienced broken ribs and cholera). He traveled, often photographing officers, who he knew he needed in order to gain access to other subjects. While propagandist in nature, Fenton's images were the first large-scale photographic documentation of war.

Of the 360 negatives Fenton produced of the conflict, this image became his most iconic. Unlike many of the others which feature heroic soldiers, the vast barren landscape, dotted with Russian cannonballs, is evocative in its simple description of war, suggesting both recent violence and a foreboding calm. British soldiers called this place The Valley of Death. When Fenton's publisher exhibited the image along with others collectively titled Panorama of the Plateau of Sebastopol in Eleven Parts, he expanded on their and Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 1854 Crimean War poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" references to Psalm 23.