Photographic Auction on 26 March 2011 in Cologne/Germany

When Sigmund Freud wrote that the Uncanny (in German ‘Unheimlich’) was everything that ought to have remained hidden, but has come to light, it is tempting to imagine he had in the back of his mind the concealed (‘Geheim’) cameras that were in fashion during his early days in Vienna. Eighty years before subminiature ‘spy’ cameras became part of the Cold War secret agent’s kit, manufacturers in France and Germany were already experimenting with devices disguised as everyday domestic objects: books, binoculars, articles of clothing and, more surprisingly, revolvers.

Auction Team Breker’s first photographic sale of 2011 includes a selection of disguised cameras that are usually rare, but for this auction have come to light. A remarkable invention is the Thompson’s Revolver Camera of 1862 (lot 362, EUR 30,000-50,000/ US$ 40,000-70,000), designed for round exposures on a 3-inch wet collodion plate. If a revolver is not subtle enough a disguise, how about a live pigeon? Christian Adrian Michel’s Pigeon Camera (lot 164, EUR 15,000-25,000/ US$ 20,000-33,000) was one of a small batch of hand-made samples which never went into commercial production. Michel’s Swiss training as a watchmaker can be seen in the precision super-lightweight construction of his camera, which strapped to a homing pigeon’s breast and produced panoramic photographs, powered by a clockwork motor that ran up to 70 minutes on one winding. Extremely rare, only two others are known in the Swiss Photo Museum in Vevey.

Alongside items of elegant espionage such as Edmund Bloch’s silk Photo-Cravate (lot 351, EUR 13,000-18,000/ US$ 17,000-24,000) are two extraordinary hat cameras. The first by J. De Neck of Antwerp (lot 365, EUR 14,000-20,000/ US$ 19,000-27,000) resembles a conventional hat less than a portable developing studio with plate racks, changing bag, a viewfinder that could be fitted into the brim, and a pull-string for shutter for covert operation. The second, a unique German prototype (lot 368, EUR 5,000-8,000/ US$ 6,500-10,000), is more recognisably hat-like in its appearance and features a lens with a long tube for taking photographs through a small hole in the crown. Meanwhile, Bloch’s Sherlock Holmes Camera (lot 370, EUR 10,000-15,000/ US$ 13,000-20,000) from c. 1912 was an attempt to capitalise on the fictional English detective’s fame and pension for disguise.

Disguise is also the modus operandi of a desirable 17th Century Transformation Set depicting Queen Christina of Sweden (lot 407, EUR 4,000-6,000/ US$ 5,000-8,000), in which the Queen’s appearance in a miniature portrait can be altered with the addition of 17 mica overlays that show different arrangements of hair and dress. Three ladies without any clothes are the subject of a rare hand-tinted nude French Stereo Daguerreotype (lot 393, EUR 3,500-5,000/ US$ 4,500-6,500).

Nuremberg toy maker Ernst Plank took a French idea for animating picture strips and added a dash of German technology in the form of a hot-air engine. The result was the Kinematofor (lot 413, EUR 7,000-10,000/ US$ 9,500-16,000), an automatic Praxinoscope that lets the viewer enjoy the show without the need to rotate the metal drum himself. From changing pictures to moving pictures, the auction features an historic example (No. 407) of the world’s first commercially successful motion picture camera, the Cinmatographe Lumire (lot 483, EUR 17,000-22,000/ US$ 23,000-30,000), patented by brothers Auguste and Louis Lumire in 1895 and manufactured by Jules Carpentier of Paris from 1896 – 1898.

An icon of 35 mm photographic history is the Leica I (A) with rare Elmax lens combination, No. 767 from 1925 (lot 90, EUR 7,000-10,000/ US$ 9,500-13,500). Different in every way is the mint 1994 Leica M6 Sultan of Brunei Camera (lot 107, EUR 8,000-10,000/ US$ 10,000-13,500), which was produced in a limited edition to mark the silver jubilee of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Dipertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam. Plated in 24 ct gold, rich in royal emblems and bearing a presentation engraving, this is a camera that was made to be seen with, although never offered for sale....and never used before.

Also included is a fine selection of gelatine silver prints by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1934–38, (Lots 380 – 385, EUR 2,000-3,000/ US$ 2,700-4,000 each) and, of course, magic lanterns, photographic literature, classic wooden cameras, professional useable equipment and much, much more.

Fully illustrated bilingual (English-German) COLOR Catalogue is available against prepayment of: EUR 28.- (Europe) or EUR 39.- (Overseas - approx. US$ 55.-), incl. airmail.

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Oh! I wanna join here in this event. I hope I can come and help. - YORHealth