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Alphonse De Launay
Patio de los Arrayanes, Alhambra, Granada, Spain
Albumen silver print, from paper negative
10 × 13 5/8 in. (25.4 × 34.6 cm)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg, 2017, Accession Number: 2017.175.1
One of the most talented students of famed French photographer Gustave Le Gray, Delaunay was virtually unknown before a group of his photographs appeared at auction in 2007. Subsequent research led to the identification of several bodies of work, including the documentation of contemporary events through instantaneous views captured on glass negatives. Delaunay also was a particular devotee of the calotype (or paper negative) process, with which he created his best pictures—including this view of the Alhambra. Among a group of pictures he made between 1851 and 1854 in Spain and Algeria, this view of the Patio de los Arrayanes reveals the extent to which Delaunay was able to manipulate the peculiarities of the paper negative. He revels in the graininess of the image, purposefully not masking out the sky before printing the negative, so that the marble tower appears somehow carved out of the very atmosphere that surrounds it. In contrast, the reflecting pool remains almost impossibly limpid, its dark surface offering a cool counterpart to the harsh Spanish sky.