Nelson's Column under Construction, Trafalgar Square, London, April 1844
salt print from calotype negative, clipped corners [Schaaf 3662]
image: 6 3/4 x 8 1/4 in. (17 x 21cm.); paper: 7 3/8 x 8 7/8in. (22.4 x 18.6cm.)
L.J. Schaaf, The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot, Princeton & Oxford, 2000, p.195, pl.81; M. Seaborne, Photographers' London 1839-1994, London, 1995, p.37; G. Stamp, The Changing Metropolis: Earliest Photographs of London 1839-79, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1984, p.88, pl.62; R. Lassam, Fox Talbot: Photographer, Tisbury, Wiltshire, 1979, n.p.; D.B. Thomas, The First Negatives: A Science Museum Monograph, London, 1964, p.22, pl.24.
Talbot's London images, taken between 1841 and 1845, act as an early visual record of a changing cityscape. The lack of figures and movement in these photographs, due to the long exposure time required for the calotype process, gives a stillness to the compositions in which the monuments and buildings take centre stage. Photographing London in the 1840s was made challenging by the city's atmospheric pollution and it is likely that Talbot and his collaborators, including Nicolaas Henneman, worked early in the day before the city was in full bustle.
In this iconic image, Talbot captured the base of the newly-erected Nelson's Column as the scaffolding was being removed. In documenting new monuments and buildings in London, Talbot preferred an elevated viewpoint: this view was probably taken from an upstairs window in Cockspur Street.
While the negative is not known to have survived, prints of this image are found in several private collections, including the William Henry Fox Talbot Trust, and in the following institutions: National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford; Museum of Modern Art, NY; J. Paul Getty Museum; Canadian Centre for Architecture; and Art Institute, Chicago.
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.