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Lot 1: (CIRCLE OF ANNA ATKINS) Adiantum Capillis-Veneris, Madeira from the Hatton Fern Album.
25 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
(CIRCLE OF ANNA ATKINS)
Adiantum Capillis-Veneris, Madeira from the Hatton Fern Album. Cyanotype, the image measuring approximately 12 1/2x7 1/2 inches (31.8x19.1 cm.), with the title, in ink, on recto; framed with the original specimen mounted with tiny stitches to a cream-colored sheet measuring at least 12 3/4x9 3/4 inches (31.8x24.8 cm.). Circa 1850
From the Collection of Robert A. Taub.
This elegant and finely-wrought cyanotype of a fern was originally part of the Hatton Fern Album, made by an unknown Victorian practitioner. The album belonged to John Hatton (1882-1972), and appears to be further traced to a well-connected Buxton, England dealer named Francis Wooliscroft, who may have sold the album to Hatton before 1923.
Today, these pages are often sold under the "circle of Anna Atkins," as she remains the best-known early user of the cyanotype process, which was not widely practiced during this period despite the ease of production and lush Prussian blue tones. (Larry J. Schaaf writes that "Atkins' publication [British Algae] was the only major early use of the process.") But, Ken Jacobson suggests that the careful, delicate stitches used to mount the fern could indicate that the album was created by another dedicated female cyanotypist.
This compelling presentation offers us the exceedingly rare opportunity to see the fern specimen presented in a diptych-like format with the resulting cyanotype. The Victorian interest in ferns and in collecting as a pastime designates this work as both a document and a record, though today the rich tonalities, abstracted and mirrored shapes, and variant textural qualities make this a fascinating art object as well.