Issue #206  9/5/2014
Beato China Album Sells for $410,000

By Alex Novak

Beato photograph from album
Beato photograph from album

Cordier Auctions sold a rare 1860 photo album of China in its Spring Antique & Fine Art Auction in Harrisburg, PA in late May for a total of $410,000. The photo album contains 56 images of China during the Second Opium War in 1860, which are considered some of the earliest photos of that country. The photographer was Felice Beato. Beato accompanied the British Army into China in 1860. His photographs captured not only strategic military positions and the aftermath of battle but also buildings such as the Summer Palace before its destruction by the British.

The album was consigned to Cordier Auctions during one of its open appraisal days held every Wednesday at their auction house in Harrisburg, PA. The buyer was Stephan Loewentheil of the 19th Century Rare Book and Photograph Shop, a rare book, manuscript, and photograph dealer with shops in Stevenson, Maryland and Brooklyn, New York.

As Stephan Loewentheil told me, "I am very happy to be the purchaser and owner of the extraordinary Beato album, which recently appeared at Cordier auction. It is one of a handful of truly extensive albums prepared by Beato in 1860 China, which has remained essentially intact for over 150 years. The album with its wealth of 10 panoramas included in a total of 56 original Beato photos is an historic treasure. As several Beato albums have recently been broken up for sale in the trade, I am especially happy that I was able to obtain and protect this important album of photographs from dismemberment.

"The album has joined my complete copy of Thomson's "River Min" and an extensive collection of Lai Fong photographs among the highlights of my personal collection of over 5,000 19th-century photographs of China."