A photo circa 1880

I have a fondness for collecting old post cards and this one of the Tour de l'Ile is special enough to share.  V&C occupied this ancient gate house/guard tower until 1875 and Alex previously posted this wonderful photograph from that year, perhaps taken just prior to their move across the road.  The three clocks were a Tour de l'Ile trademark; the central one being local time, while the left clock revealed Paris time at 15 min. 16 secs. earlier, and the right clock featured Bern time at 5 min. 6 sec. ahead.  FWIW, a superb full-page reproduction of this photograph is also presented in Vol. I of Collector's Island.

A photo circa 1880

 
My photo is an albumen print; a technique which had only been invented in 1850 and is described as the first commerical form of photographic printing:

A photo circa 1880

This "Carte de Visite" style of photographic reproduction was first introduced in Paris in 1854 and was characterized by a thin albumen print affixed to thicker card stock.  It's smallish size reflected the current vogue of "visiting cards", today's business cards but then used for social purposes as well.  A side benefit was that eight photos could be exposed on a single plate.  Albumen itself is derived from egg whites and was used to bind emulsion chemicals to the photographic paper.

This view of the Tour de l'Ile is interesting as it appears to reflect a time after V&C vacated the building, judging by the lack of advertising found in the 1875 picture, yet still has the three clocks which were not replaced with a single clock until 1886.  Thus, the era can be safely placed between these two dates.

The photograph was from the Genevois firm of Charnaux, located in the Maison des Trois Rois (House of the Three Kings) just across the Place Bel Air from V&C.  In this borrowed photo of Charnaux's shop you can spot the "PHOTOGRAPH" sign on roof.  The Tour de l'Ile would be just off the lower left corner, while the present Maison is off the lower right.

A photo circa 1880

One reason I love the early era of photography is that it finally allowed for visual honesty.  Previous to photographs, when images were created through an artist's interpretation, the painter (or patron) could, and often did, alter reality to suit their desires.  This water color from The Art of Vacheron Constantin auction catalog is a case in point.  Described as circa 1870, it presents the conundrum of a single clock with Vacheron & Constantin signage!

A photo circa 1880

HAGWE everyone smiley

I for one welcome those days
08/17/2013 - 02:14
I get a little tired of all the electronics and instant everything. Romance should be slower! Best, Joe
LOL, you have the heart of
08/17/2013 - 20:55
a vintage collector angel.  I absolute agree that impatience is anathema to romance, and most everything else!  Does anyone still write love letters?  Too easy to just join a mating website, where according to the advert, one is 3X more likely to "find someone".
Lovely photos Tick Tack. I must say that what a fabulous
08/17/2013 - 10:25
Heritage VC has. I do recall seeing the photo of T D L clock tower in Collectors Island Volume 1.
You must take a different Tack...
08/17/2013 - 21:17
'cause I'm Tick Talk blush.  Speaking of Tack...I was listening to the radio and heard the host say that he would "take a different tact."  A humorous faux pas, as the correct phrase is to "take a different tack" from the nautical term to change directions.  When sailing into the wind, mariners would "tack" from side to side so as to maintain forward momentum.  Knowing this context actually gives meaning to the phrase!
And then there's Tic-Tac!
08/18/2013 - 01:26
laugh Joseph
Really interesting stuff
08/17/2013 - 15:30
I've never paid much attention to the different technologies used for photos or printing - knowing about Daguerreotypes was about the extent of my knowledge and had never heard of Albumen prints. You are so right about the visual honesty. It was the first time that anyone could see something remotely and accurately. Now, of course, with digital photos and photoshop, there is no assurance that what you see is real anymore.
Too true Mike
08/17/2013 - 21:26
While digital photography has achieved much in terms of speed and convenience, it has opened the doors to much trickery as well.  I really dislike the modern movies that over-do the digital effects, not only at the expense of any storyline but also make my eyes hurt sad Amazing ingenuity from the past produced many uses for eggs besides eating them.  Aside from albumen made with egg whites, the ancient Egyptians and Coptics used egg yolk mixed with color pigment and other stuff to create tempura paints that are still vivid today!
Scrambled eggs also need some beating!...
08/17/2013 - 23:18
Dean - you've introduced another interesting dynamic. It never stops.....thankfullywink... Yes, a piece of research which sits most comfortably within the parameters of time. You've increased my appetite to see things for myself which will help to dot the i's and cross the t's! Oddly enough, I'm having poached eggs for supper this evening and casting my mind back to those days when hair-brushing was unknown and you saw things as they were!   Those were the days! You have a good weekend too. Thanks again Tony
Egg-actly Tony :-) Cheers!
08/18/2013 - 03:06
nt
A little more history of this tower...
08/18/2013 - 01:23
The tower stands as an enduring witness to the history of Geneva. It was originally the dungeon of the castle built in 1219 by the bishop of Geneva who was also the Prince. The castle was seized by the Count of Savoy during the middle ages to become his fortress and proclaim his domination over the town. During the early 16th century, the oppostion arose to the Savoys led by Philibert Berthelier. But, alas he was imprisoned in that tower and was found guilty of conspiracy and treason by what would today be considered a "kangaroo court" and beheaded in 1519. He still is considered one of the great patriots of Geneva. Outside the tower is his statue symbolizing the struggle for the cities freedom and independence. His motto was: " Non moriar sed vivam et narrabo opera Domini " which is from the Psalm 117..." I shall not die, but live: and shall declare the works of the Lord. "  During the Revolution of 1846 Vacheron installed its workshops in the Tower. On October 7th, a cannonball landed on a desk in the factory office on the second floor and several shots penetrated the forge on the ground floor. An intersting history, and just a taste. JB  
A real sense of irony Joseph
08/18/2013 - 03:04
for the Swiss to erect Berthelier's statue defiantly against his prison and place of execution surprise.
Thanks Dean,
08/18/2013 - 22:18
for sharing that beautiful photo and for adding your comments.   Cheers kent .
My pleasure Kent :-)
08/19/2013 - 18:50
nt
learn sonmething new each day! Thanks Dean ;-)
08/19/2013 - 11:29
e
Just helping out Alex
08/19/2013 - 18:52
while you work on your next article masterpiece heart
after speaking with someone familiar with the history of Geneva the
08/21/2013 - 17:05
last painting is in fact correct but probably dates from the 1890s
Great Alex, that helps me date this
08/23/2013 - 00:27
photo with the same details as the watercolor.  This photo also shows that V&C had their sign on the Quai des Moulins across the street.  It looks like there were other businesses on the main floor of the Tour de l'Ile by this time...I can see "Horticulture"...but perhaps V&C still had workshops on the upper floors?