One of the prints by Paul Nadar from the two albums assembled by Edmond and Marie Ternynck as a record of their 1890 journey on the Trans-Caspian railway – €41,000 (£35,650) at Ader.

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Its sale on November 10 featured over 380 lots of photographs spanning the 19th to 21st century.

Among the best-sellers were two lots of 19th century albums covering two very different construction projects. One of these was the group of three albums of unpublished photographs documenting the construction of the Sacré-Coeur in Paris previewed in ATG No 2566, the other two albums detailing scenes along the construction route of the Trans-Caspian railway through central Asia.

Projects portrayed

The Sacré-Coeur albums were commissioned by the architect of the basilica, Paul Abadie, from the photographer Louis-Émile Durandelle (1839-1917). Together with his collaborator Albert Chevojon (1865-1925), Durandelle assembled a detailed record of the project covering the construction and the people involved.


One of over 330 albumen prints by Louis-Émile Durandelle and Albert Chevojon documenting the construction of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre in three albums, sold for €42,000 (£36,520) at Ader.

Ader’s offering comprised over 330 albumen prints from glass negatives that spanned work on the project from 1875-1901 and came with extensive dating and annotations.

The set sold just over the upper end of the €30,000-40,000 guide at €42,000 (£36,520).

The Trans-Caspian Railway was a new silk route running through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and connecting Türkmenbasy on the Caspian Sea to Samarkand.

Construction began in 1879 and in 1890 the builders asked the French photographer Paul Nadar (Nadar’s son) to document the project. Using instant cameras, Nadar took hundred of photographs along the route, from desert landscapes and ruins to horse markets and the local populace.

That same year two industrialists from northern France, Edmond and Marie Ternynck, made a journey on the railway in October-November. En route they purchased prints from local photographers as a record of the trip and on their return to France they augmented these with prints purchased from Nadar.

Ader’s two albums documenting the Ternyncks’ trip comprised 41 and 69 albumen prints respectively that featured many handwritten captions on the mounts and some photographers’ credits in the negatives. They also came with a notebook giving an account of the trip by Edmond. They sold for €41,000 (£35,650) against a guide of €15,000-20,000.

The highest price of the auction came from a later, inter-war, image by the French Surrealist photographer and writer Claude Cahun (1894-1954) who was born Lucy Renée Mathilde Schwob.

Self-portraits, often gender fluid, with a theatrical element, were a feature of her work and at Ader Cahun’s self-portrait with Roger Rousset in Pierre Albert-Birot’s play Barbe-Bleue (Blue Beard), a period silver print from 1929 measuring 4¼ x 3in (10.75 x 7.5cm), realised a doubleestimate €55,000 (£47,825).

This was one of two prints by Cahun in the sale. The other was a silver print of a paper doll or figure. It was taken in 1936 in Jersey where she lived under German occupation during the war and was involved in resistance activities. The 7½ x 6in (19.5 x 15cm) image was signed dated and titled Prends un petit baton pointu (Poupée) Jersey Septembre 1936).

This was pre-empted by the Musée des Beaux Arts de Nantes, the city of Cahun’s birth, at €32,000 (£27,825) again double the estimate.