ROUSSELET, Louis-Theophile Marie (1845-1929)
[Voyage dans l'Inde]
[Paris: Goupil, 1869]. Oblong folio. 52 albumen photographs (2, 4-13, 17-21, 28-29, 31-37, 46-51, 70, 90-91, 93, 109, 112-115, 121-122, 128-134, 136, 141 and 147), each mounted onto large sheets, printed captions below each image. Image size: approximately 6 1/4 x 8 1/4 inches. Sheet size: 16 1/16 x 20 1/2 inches.
Expertly bound to style in half black morocco and contemporary marbled paper boards
Very rare collection of albumen photographs from the early period of photography in India.
In 1864, at the young age of 19, Louis Rousselet arrived in India seeking to study the architecture and ancient ruins of the sub-continent. In 1866, after visiting the ruins at Dabhoi, Rousselet realized that his pencil sketches could never do justice in conveying the beauty of the elaborate architecture and carving. He would later write, "It was on seeing these generally unknown masterpieces at Dubbhoee that I regretted I had not the power of reproducing them by photography, and felt that it would be impossible to continue my explorations profitably without the assistance of that art. As soon, therefore, as I returned to Baroda, I applied myself seriously to learn photography; and with that view I procured from Bombay all the necessary apparatus" (Rousselet, India and its Native Princes , p. 122).
From that point forward, Rousselet assiduously photographed the region. After six years of extensive overland travel, Rousselet returned to France to publish serially, and later as a book, an account of his experiences. That work is illustrated with many engravings after photographs taken by the author. Issued separately from the text, and likely only in a very small number for select friends and patrons, Rousselet printed 160 albumen photographs from his journey.
Although self-trained, Rousselet's photographs show incredible perception of the art. His images show strong contrasts, are artfully composed with elements in the foreground and are taken from appealing angles. Rousselet's artistic compositions are even more impressive considering the harsh conditions of the environment. He would later write that after visiting the Mahadeva Temple, "...the heat had become so overwhelming that I scarcely knew how to contrive to bear the temperature of my portable laboratory, -- indeed, what will always remain inexplicable to me, is how, in such a centre, I ever succeeded in preparing the plates with wet collodion, -- it is impossible to form an idea of the suffering and fatigue each one of the photographs I took at this period of my journey cost me..." (Rousselet, India and its Native Princes , p. 429).
Only two collections of all 160 images are known to be extant (Duke University and a set identified by Lafont-Couturier and Renie as one privately held by descendents of Rousselet). Further attesting to the rarity of Rousselet's photographs, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France holds but 17 individual images.
Cf. Rousselet, India and its Native Princes (London: 1882); cf. Lafont-Couturier and Renié, L'Inde Photographies de Louis Rousselet 1865-1868 , (Bordeaux: Musée Goupil, 1992).