BLOCK, Adolphe (1829-1918)
French tissue stereoview of the Tsar Canon, Moscow, with contrasting non-firing and firing views. Circa 1870.
Tissue stereoscopic albumen print photograph, each image 70 x 70 mm (arched top format), white card mount 88 x 175 mm, with printed decoration, series title ‘Incendies & Surprises’ and imprint of the photographer and publisher Adolphe Block ‘B. K. Edit., A Paris’, all in blue; verso with fully contemporary caption in ink ‘Gros Canon, Moscou’; some very pale foxing to each image, otherwise fully intact and in fine condition.
The tissue stereoview was particularly popular in France from the 1860s through to the 1880s. As with a conventional stereoview, the image was photographed and printed on albumen paper. Artists then applied watercolours to the fragile prints, before adding a layer of backing tissue to each one. The tissue-backed prints were then inserted into the two cut-out windows of a standard stereoscopic mount. These types of stereocard offer two views: when seen under light that strikes only their front surface, the images seem monochrome; however, when illuminated from the back (i.e. when they are held up to the light) the applied colours become visible and the images are miraculously transformed. It was also common for the artists to pin prick sections of the images so that light passing through the tiny holes would highlight intricate details or patterns, as is the case with this view of the famous Tsar Canon, which was cast in 1586 and stands in the grounds of the Kremlin: the pin-pricked designs help recreate the flash of an explosion when a shell is fired from the canon.