Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

A mysterious albumen print size 27×35″ (70x90cm) from 1860’s, by authors Benque & Sebastianutti

with 4 comments

A person called me almost a year ago saying that he has a photograph from 1860’s and it’s 70x90cm in a massive frame. I’ve told him that it’s impossible, at the time they were making only contact copies from a negatives and so only rare photographs were larger than 8×10″ (20x25cm). I’ve seen an original albumen print from Eadweard Muybridge in George Eastman House that was 20×24″ (50x60cm) size, so I couldn’t belive that this person owns such a huge albumen print.

It took me quite some time to visit this person, still not believing that the print could be a real vintage albumen print from 19th Century. But I was shocked when I realized it’s a real authentic albumen print from Sebastianutti & Benque studio in Trieste. They were working together between 1863-1869 and then also between 1879 and 1901. In the history of Trieste says:

“In 1865, Francis Benque get the first official recognition – a gold medal of Merit – in Germany at the International Exhibition of Photography in Berlino. In Germany buys a device for the creation of life-size photographs that will allow the study of offering , the ever more demanding customers Trieste to be immortalized in portraits”

The device that is mentioned above is a solar enlarger. An enlarger that capture and project sunlight to a negative that is projected to a sensitized albumen print. A very rare device. I saw one in Rochester, USA and it is very complex system of shafts, mirrors and lenses. So this is very rare albumen print.

The print has a mysterious history. The owner that will remain unnamed told me that his grand father has hidden this photograph in an inside wall of his house. When the house was about to be torn down, that’s 85 years later, his grand mother warned his uncle that something was hidden in a wall, so they opened the wall and saw this albumen print wrapped in a leather, with few other images. The true value of the print will be known when we establish who is the person on the photograph. The owner claims that this was a grandmother of his grand father.

I don’t know much about history, but I reckon that this must be some kind of royal person on the photograph. First of all that print must costed a fortune, then I think that the necklace might be from black pearls, also the frame proves that it’s a masterpiece of the 19th Century photography.

So the research I’ve done together with some friends yield the following results. Although the person on the photograph resembles Queen Victoria, it’s not. The queen had blue eyes. Princess Alice of Hesse looks very similar, but the princess died at age 35 and the person on the albumen print looks much older than that. The third clue that I’m pursuing is that the person on the photograph might be Princess Aglaë von Auersperg. Who knows…

If you would know someone who could help identify the person on the photograph, I would be very grateful. My email is

Here are some clues.

But the story doesn’t end there. Here are some more mysterious photographs from the same owner. I think that this is German Royal Family.

Written by Borut Peterlin

19 November, 2014 at 01:35

4 Responses

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  1. Kakvo blago!


    19 November, 2014 at 11:52

  2. Pozdrav Renato, ba! Da, stvarno! Bilo mi je nadrealistično da vidim ovo djelo u kuhinji 🙂

    Borut Peterlin

    19 November, 2014 at 19:21

  3. […] recent post by Borut Peterlin, an amazing photographer with a great blog, reminded me of a handful of over-painted prints […]

  4. Zanimiva zgodba.Fotografijo pa je mogoče še natančneje datirati saj sta ta dva fotografa pod imenom “Benque e Sebastianutti” delovala le nekaj manj kot 2 leti (30.9. 1867 do 22.9.1869) potem razdreta pogodbo in Benque oddide v Braziijo. Ko začneta ponovno sodelovati (po letu 1876) se studio imenuje obratno “Sebastianutti e Benque” . Treba je pogledati kdaj je točno živela babica njegovega dedka in primerjati starost. Tudi če gre za “Albumen print” si je kaka gospa iz premožnejše družine to privoščila, le teh pa v Trstu takrat ni manjkalo 🙂


    9 February, 2016 at 17:48

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