Feb 25, 2016 - Sale 2406

Sale 2406 - Lot 13

Price Realized: $ 65,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 25,000 - $ 35,000
An album entitled Sketches of Chinese Life and Character.
An extraordinary album with 50 hand-colored photographs depicting exotic scenes in Shanghai and a host of occupational studies. Albumen prints, 9 1/4x8 3/4 inches (23.5x22.2 cm.), and the reverse, in an assortment of oval, arch-topped and rectilinear formats; each with a printed caption label with the print number affixed to mount recto. With 2 additional mounted albumen photographs, the first of a Chinese professional (a banker?) who is depicted with his large family, and the second a group portrait in which this same official is shown with Asian and Western professionals, which is inscribed "Yours tc, Clapp & Co.," in ink, on mount verso. Oblong small folio, 1/4 morocco, worn; contents tight. 1871-72

Additional Details

William Saunders was an English commercial photographer who operated a studio in Shanghai between 1862 and 1887. His sensitive portraits of hardscrabble tradesmen and itinerant occupationals capture the colorful street life associated with Chinese urban culture. Saunders' studio portraits of local professionals and elegant women also depicted aspects of Chinese life new to many Westerners. Saunders' best-known image is a staged scene of a beheading, with calligraphic banners in the background. This album also includes a study of a woman's tiny bound foot.

Despite Saunders apparent talent, his observations, which are recorded at length in printed captions mounted below each photograph, inadvertently detail his colonialist prejudices. It is curious that, while the images were carefully constructed and compelling, with special consideration of his subjects (e.g., the woman whose feet were photographed), today's reader will be suprised by his unguarded remarks.

The album apparently belonged to a businessman associated with Clapp and Company, a banking firm that operated in China.

The photographs include: The Head of a Chinese Guild Shanghai Coolies A Celestial Cab Cotton Rolling Machine Cotton Spinning Weaving A Chinese Woman's Foot A Shanghai Woman Rain! The Itinerant Cookshop The Itinerant Cookshop (variant) Ploughing Shanghai Woman and Child Opium Smokers Beggars A Chiropodist A Mandarin Procession Shangahi Winter Dress Cobblers Irrigation A Wedding Procession Sampan! The Brush Seller Itinerant Barbers A Young Lady From Canton A Shanghai Sampan Native Ferry-Boats "Music for the Million" A Funeral Procession A Court Scene The Cangue Decapitation Dominoes A Small Military Mandarin Itinerant Needle-Women Actors A Ningpo Family A Chow-Chow Party A Civil Mandarin Blind Musicians A Joss House Priests Shanghai Musicians Soochow Women An Ingenious Device Fortune-Telling The "Hand-Carriage" A Despatch Boat A Canton Woman The Magistrate of The Mixed Court.

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