1880s Felice Beato Album of Japanese Hand-Colored Albumen Photographs

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We sold this item at auction for $950
 in May, 2023.

The antique photo album, produced around the 1880s, is filled with (47) original albumen prints of Japanese scenes by photographers Kusakabe Kimbei and Felice Beato. Most of the prints are hand colored.

Kusakabe Kimbei: The Photographer Behind the Lens

Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1934), a Japanese photographer, initially worked as a colorist before establishing his own photography studio in Yokohama. His collaboration with Felice Beato (1832-1909), an Italian-British photographer known for his pioneering work in photojournalism and war photography, produced a remarkable collection of images capturing scenes of 19th century Japan.

The Significance of Albumen Prints

The album contains original albumen prints, a photographic printing process popular in the 19th century. This technique involved coating paper with egg white (albumen) and sensitizing it with a solution of silver nitrate to create a light-sensitive surface for printing photographs. The resulting images possessed a unique tonal range and were often hand-colored to enhance their visual appeal.

Scenes of Japanese Life and Culture

The photo album features a diverse range of subjects, offering glimpses into various aspects of Japanese life and culture.

From the elegance of geisha and Kabuki actors to the solemnity of a funeral procession and the tranquility of a Shinto offering, each photograph paints a vivid portrait of 19th century Japan.

Scenes around Nikko and Yokohama, including iconic landmarks such as the Great Gate and Chiusenji Lake, further enrich the album’s historical and cultural significance.

Collectibility and Auction Values

Antique photograph albums like this one are sought after by collectors for their historical and aesthetic value. The meticulous hand-coloring and historical context captured in each image contribute to their appeal. Auction prices for similar albums can vary widely, depending on factors such as condition, provenance, and rarity.

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