Albumen print from wet collodion negative
Image: 15.3 x 21.4 cm (6 x 8 7/16 in.); Matted: 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1988.191
Charles Marville made this view of Paris from his apartment.
Marville framed the city so that the dome at Les Invalides—a retirement home and hospital for military veterans—dominates the skyline. Below lie dark, dense neighborhoods where individual buildings are barely discernable. Photographing skies in landscapes was challenging in the 1850s: the light-sensitive coatings were incapable of properly exposing both earth and the heavens in a single shot. There is no doubt that Marville’s interest here was the sky—the magnificent massing of clouds that momentarily eclipses the sun. The scale, drama, and majesty of this short-lived natural spectacle overwhelms human achievements.
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