Circus Photographs, ca. 1875
Appraised Value: $10,000 - $15,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (2:56)
Vice President & Director of Photographs
Swann Auction Galleries
APPRAISER: Here we are in Tampa, outside of Sarasota, the circus capital of the world, and you've brought in these marvelous photographs. The material that we have on display is just a fraction of the photographs that you've collected. Can you tell me a little bit about them?
GUEST: Well, I've acquired them over about a 15-year period. The autographed picture of P.T. Barnum was my first one.
APPRAISER: P.T. Barnum is, of course, associated with the circus that bears his name. He was the greatest showman on earth. Also referred to as the Shakespeare of advertising, because he really knew how to sell an idea. If we look at the photograph of P.T. Barnum, we see that the name of the photographer is Eisenmann and that Eisenmann had a studio in New York. Eisenmann Studio basically catered to circus performers, outsiders, sometimes known as freaks. He was the premier 19th-century photographer of theatrical figures. Some of the performers that appeared in various sideshow circuses: Millie and Christine, Siamese twins; the albino sisters; the snake charmer; this very poignant image of a lady with four legs; the tattoo man; and then the bearded lady, also by Eisenmann. And you can see that these photographs are the same size. They're referred to as "cabinet card" photographs. They're albumen prints from the 1870s, 1880s. And many of them are signed. If we turn this photograph over of the Count and Countess Magri we see that the back of it has their signatures and an inscription. I also wanted to talk a little bit about these smaller photographs, which are known as "carte de visites"-- calling cards. They were standardized. And I particularly like Rose d'Alma, who has hair kind of like mine. And what I discovered in doing some research about ladies in the circus who had this sort of soft and fuzzy hair is they were known as the "Circassian women." P.T. Barnum basically introduced these women as special circus figures. We did a preliminary count and I believe there are over 110 photographs spanning some of the circus's most prominent history. At auction, I would estimate them at $10,000 to $15,000.
GUEST: Wow! Now I'm shaking. (laughs shakily)
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