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Carl Nebel’s Iconic Lithographs of Nineteenth-Century Mexico
Most in Full Original Color
466. NEBEL, Carl. [Cover title: Viaje pintoresco de Mejico de Carlos Nebel]. No place, no date [Paris and/or Mexico, ca. 1836-1839]. 50 lithograph plates, 39 in full original color with gum arabic highlights (Mexican costumes, types, and activities; city views and rural scenery); 5 tinted in muted shades of grey, bronze, ecru, and maize (archaeology); 5 uncolored (archaeology); 1 uncolored plan, lithographed by Lassalle, Miehle, Bernard, Arnout, Lemercier, Cuvillier, Dandiran, Courtin, Villaneuve, Lehnert, Deroy, Bouffard, Frey, and Monthelier, after original art work by Nebel. Oblong double folio (38 x 54 cm), original dark green blind-stamped cloth, title in gilt on upper cover. Cloth rubbed and slightly frayed at edges, spine somewhat loose with small tears, front hinge open, some plates have mended tears, and a few plates are creased (especially first and last plates), slight chipping to some margins (not affecting images), a few plates lightly foxed (mostly archaeological plates). One plate (Monte Virgen) supplied from another copy (mounted on heavy paper, uniformly browned, some spotting and staining mainly confined to blank margins and caption, blank margins trimmed all around but no losses). Overall the images are fine and the colors fresh and highlight intact. The present copy has the full complement of 50 plates, but it has no printed text (physically it appears that it never did). At the front is a leaf with a contemporary calligraphic ink manuscript plate list in Spanish, entitled “Clasificación.” Each plate has a lightly penciled number at top right blank margin. This copy has more full hand-colored plates than most (the Paris edition we sold at our Auction 22 had 20 full color plates as compared to this variant, which has 39 plates in full color and five tinted plates). Complete copies of any of the editions of Nebel’s great plate book are exceedingly rare. Since 1969 only three complete copies of the Paris 1836 edition have sold at auction (including the copy sold in our Auction 22); and but one copy (lacking six plates) of the Paris and Mexico 1839 edition.
Plates are listed in the order in which they appear in this copy. Listed dimensions are neat line to neat line, except for a few exceptions in which neat lines are not present. In these cases approximate dimensions for images (rather than sheet size) are provided. Overall sheet size is 37.3 x 53 cm, except for Plate  that is supplied (Monte Virgen), 32.4 x 45 cm.
 Veracruz [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Imprimé par Benard | Arnout lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 20 x 34 cm. Beautifully lit view of Veracruz Plaza with carts, riders, and figures, background with ocean and ships.
 Rancheros. [in print at lower left] 1834. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 30 x 42.4 cm. Iconic costume group with one rider and three other men at left—superb details on costume, horses, and equestrian equipage.
 Vista de Jalapa. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier | Emile Lassalle Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 24.4 x 33.7 cm. View of Jalapa in the far distance, foreground with Native with carrying a load on his back plodding up a winding mountain trail, figures in middle ground, sun shining through clouds.
 Arrieros. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier A Paris. | Lehnert lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 31 x 42.1 cm. Vigorous costume group—three muleteers valiantly attempt to move a heavily loaded, stubborn mule into action, as the rest of the team proceeds in the mountainous background.
 Templo Antiguo de los Totonacos en Tusapan. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Mialhe Pea. c St. Honore 35. | P. Mialhe lithog. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 24.3 x 34.3.1 cm. Archaeological site in lush tropical forest, two figures at left with guns stalking a jaguar at right.
 Fuente entre las ruinas de Tusapan [below neat line]: C. Nebel del. | F Mialhe lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 25.7 x 35.2 cm. Archaeological site with ruined sculpture in foreground and two figures behind, mountainous landscape in background.
 Piedra en el Monte de Mapilca. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. Mialhe, r. St. Honore 357. | Fr. Mialhe Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 25 x 33.5 cm. Archaeological site with two Natives working.
 Gente de Tierra Caliente | Entre de Papanlta y Misantla. |[below neat line] C. Nebel del | Lith. de Lemercier à Paris | Lehnert Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 26.7 x 34.5 cm. Costume group of Natives in foreground (barefoot woman and man in white clothing, another man on horseback, cathedral in background).
 La Piramide de Papantla. | (Llamado el Tajin.) [below neat line] C. Nebel del | Lith. de Lemercier | F. Mialhe lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 25.2 x 36 cm. Archaeological site with two seated figures in foreground.
 Indios de la Cierra de Guachinango. [below neat line] C. Nebel del | Imp. Lith. de Lemercier, A Paris | Lehnert Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 30.7 x 39.8 cm. Native costume group with four barefoot figures lounging in foreground (two women, a child, and a man), middle ground shows six Voladores in mid-flight and spectators, city in far distance. Los Voladores is a Mexican ceremony dating to pre-Conquest. With the advent of Christianity, the ritual with its remnants of paganism was banned but subsequently and reluctantly accorded a place in the ceremonial calendar of the Catholic Church. According to Nebel’s eye-witness account, the pole was fifty to sixty feet high.
 Monte Virgen. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier à Paris. | A. Joly lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 27.7 x 39.9 cm. Landscape scene with riders crossing a river in a lush tropical forest.
 Figuras de Piedra y de Barro del Tiempo de Los Indios Antiguos [below neat line] Nebel del. | Lith. de Benard et Frey | Arnout Lith. Lithograph in tones of grey, mauve, pink, and terracotta. 38.9 x 29.3 cm. Mesoamerican sculpture.
 Idoles y ornamentos de Barro. [below neat line] Nebel del | Lassalle lith. | Lith. de Benard & Frey. Lithograph in tones of ecru, mauve, and grey. 29.4 x 38.8 cm. Mesoamerican sculpture.
 Tampico de Tamaulipas. [below neat line] C. Nebel del |[difficult to read, first words rubbed away] Benard et C. | Fck. Mialhe Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 26 x 36.8 cm. View from across the meeting of two rivers with boats; two people and lean-to structure in foreground.
 Interior de Aguas Calientes. [below neat line] C. Nebel del | Ad. Cuvillier Lit. fig. par Lehnert. Full lithograph color with gum arabic. 20 x 33.5 cm. Main plaza of Aguascalientes with people, horses, mule team, and coach.
 Vista General de Zacatecas. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. Lemercier Benard et C. | Ad. Cuvillier Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 23 x 33.6 cm. View of Zacatecas, foreground with three giant magueys and a man harvesting.
 Interior de Zacatecas. [below neat line] C. Nebel del | Imp. par Benard. | Arnout lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 23.3 x 34.3 cm. View of plaza and cathedral at Zacatecas with vendors, strollers, and horses.
 Plan de las Ruinas de la Quemada | Cerca de Villa nueva. [below neat line] Nebel delt. | Lith. de Benard. | Gravé par L. Bouffard, r. du Regard 11. Uncolored lithograph map of archaeological site. 17.6 x 26.
 Vista General de las Ruinas de la Quemada. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier | Fck. Mialhe lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 24.3 x 35.5 cm. Archaeology in landscape scene with river and figures on horseback and walking in foreground.
 Interior del Templo a II del plan | de las ruinas de la Quemada. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier, rue de Seine S. G. 55 | Emile Lassalle Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 23.3 x 35 cm. Archaeological site.
 Vista de la Mina de Veta Grande, | Cerca de Zacatecas. [below neat line] Ch. Nebel del. | Lith. de Benard | Arnout lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 23.3 x 34.2 cm. Landscape with mining town and mountains at background.
 St. Luis-Potosi. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Benard et Frey | Arnout Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 22.1 x 33.3 cm. Landscape with Natives resting on rocks near stand of cactus in foreground; San Luis Potosí and mountains in background.
 Plaza Mayor de Guadalajara. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier rue de Seine S.G. 55 | Courtin lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 21.4 x 35.5 cm. Main Plaza of Guadalajara with people strolling and scampering dog.
 Bahìa de Acapulco. [below neat line] Ch. Nebel del. | I Lith. de Lemercier | Villeneuve Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 22.9 x 33.3 cm. Ships and canoe in bay, town of Acapulco in distance.
 Vista General de Guanajuato. [below neat line] C. Nebel delt. | Lith. de Lemercier, Paris | Lassalle Lith. Fig. par Lehnert. 29.4 x 39.8 cm. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. In foreground are five mules and one rider winding their way down a steep road with embankment toward the city of Guanajuato in the middle ground, mountains in distance.
 Plaza Mayor de Guanajuato. [below neat line] C. Nebel del | Lith. de Lemercier, rue de Seine S. G. 55 | A. Cuvillier Lith. Fig. par Lehnert. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 22.5 x 33.9 cm. Main Plaza at Guanajuato with coach, riders, and people strolling and conversing; in left foreground is a fashionably attired couple sitting on a balcony, the lady with a fan and wearing mantilla.
 Mexico | Visto desde el Arzobispado de Tacubaya. [below neat line] C. Nebel, del | Im. de Lemercier Benard et C.| Fck. Mialhe, Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 24.7 x 35.3 cm. View of Mexico City from Tacubaya, two men in foreground, one on horseback, the other man standing and wearing a serape.
 Vista sobre los vulcanes de México | desde el pueblo de Tacubaya. [below neat line] C. Nebel del | Lit. Mialhe F. r St. Honoré 357. | Fck. Mialhe Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 24.5 x 35.4 cm. Rooftop view of Mexico City toward volancoes, people on rooftop lounging.
 Indias de la Sierra al S.E. de Mexico. [below neat line] C. Nebel pinxt. | Lit. de Lemercier. A Paris | Lehnert Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 29.1 x 39.6 cm. Costume group with four women in intricately embroidered Native clothing and one child in foreground; background with mountains and body of water.
 Interior de Mexico. [below neat line] Ch. Nebel del. | Imp. par Benard | Arnout lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 23.2 x 34 cm. Plaza of Mexico with cathedral at left, coaches, riders, muleteer with team kicking up dust, carriers, and walkers, mountains in background.
 Plaza Mayor de Mexico. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier à Paris. | Lith. par Cuvillier Fig. par Lehnert. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 24.8 x 33.8 cm. Plaza of Mexico—cathedral at center, vinoteria at left, row of coaches, many riders, riders, flock of turkeys, troops on review, large mule team, many strollers.
 La Mantilla. | Traje por la mañana. [below neatline] C. Nebel delt. | Lith. de Lemercier r. de Seine S. G. No. 55. | E. Lasalle Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 27.5 x 37.6 cm. Costume group in street scene with well-dressed threesome (man wearing cloak and hat, two women in fancy black dresses and mantillas), woman in balcony above, two peasants in humble attire sitting on street curb, cathedral in background.
 Paseo de la Viga en Mexico. [below neat line] C. Nebel del. | Imp. de Lemercier à Paris | Dandiran Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 25.1 x 36.4 cm. Lively social scene with coaches, riders, and milling crowd on far side of canal; foreground with two boats with passengers and musicians.
 El Hacendado [sic] y su Mayordomo. [below neatline] C. Nebel del. | Imp. Lith. de Lemercier. | Emile Lasalle lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 28 x 44.1 cm. Costume group: Three men and a lady riding magnificent horses equipped with elaborate equestrian equipage; the wealthy landowner wears an embroidered European-style manga and is greeted by his foreman who has a Saltillo serape rolled up behind his saddle. This an early print of a Saltillo serape, the earliest being 1830.
 Plan de la Piedra de Sacrificio y Figuras de Barro. [below neatline] Nebel del. | Lith. de Bernard et Frey. | Arnout lith. Lithograph in tones of grey, terracotta, and ochre. 30.7 x 44.3 cm. Archaeological artifacts relating to Sacrificial Stone.
 Bajo relieve de la piedra de sacrificio. [below neatline] Nebel del. | Arnout lith.| Lith. de Bernard et Frey. Lithograph in tones of grey. 26.3 x 37.3 cm. Two sections of friezes from Sacrificial Stone.
 Grupo de la Piedra de Sacrificio, de Tamaño Medio Natural [below neatline] Nebel del. | L. de Bernard et Frey.| Arnout lith. Lithograph in tones of grey. Approximately 41.9 x 28.6 cm. Archaeology (details from Sacrifical Stone).
 Instrumentos de musica. [below neatline] C. Nebel del. | Imprim. Lithog. de Lemercier, à Paris. | Dandiran lith. Full color lithograph. 25.8 x 37.8 cm. Musical artifacts.
 El Zodiaco. [below neatline] Nebel del. | Arnout lith. | Lith. de Benard et Frey. Lithograph in tones of grey, terracotta, and beige. 30.7 x 41.5 cm. Archaeological (Stone of the Sun and artifacts).
 Teoyaomiqui [below neatline] Nebel del. | Lith. de Benard et Frey | Arnout lith. Lithograph in tones of grey. 51.5 x 35.6 cm. Archaeological (sculpture of Coatlicue, Aztec mother earth goddess).
 Las tortilleras. [below neatline] C. Nebel delt. | Lith. de Lemercier, a Paris | Lehenert [sic] Lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 30 x 43.4 cm. Costume group interior of palapa in which two beautiful women prepare tortillas over an open fire; two men in background; from an opening at left is a gorgeous tropical sky and palm tree. Classic image, to be repeated in myriad permutations by later illustrators.
 Indios Carboneros | y labradores de la vecin dad[sic] de Mexico. [below neatline] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier a Paris | Lehnert lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 29.2 x 39.3 cm. Costume group—four barefoot peasants, woman with child on her back and two men (carrier and another in hair cape), donkey with burden at right.
 Valle de Mexico [below neatline] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier. | J. Mialhe lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 18.5 x 35.3 cm. Mexico City in distance, mountains in background, lush tropical growth in foreground.
 Vista de Puebla de los Angeles. [below neatline] C. Nebel del. | Im. de Lemercier Benard et C. | Deroy lith. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. 22.5 x 33.4 cm. City and volcanoes in distance, foreground with people, cart and horse on road.
 Poblanas. [below neatline] C. Nebel del. | Lith. de Lemercier | E. Lassalle Lith. 27.9 x 37.8 cm. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. Costume group set in doorway with three pretty ladies decked out in China poblana attire, smoking cigarettes, and one holding a big Mexican spur; man to left in fancy vaquero garb and spurs, saddle on ground at right. Perhaps this is the most enduring image of Nebel’s Mexico, quickly copied by George W. Kendall and a host of other recyclers.
 Pirámide de Cholula. [below neatline] C. Nebel delt. | Imp. Lith. de Lemercier | Emile Lassalle Lith. 23.6 x 35 cm. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. Ethereal landscape with road leading up to Cholula in the distance.
 Ruinas de la Piramide de Xochicalco. [below neatline] C. Nebel del | Lith. de Lemercier | F. Mialhe Lith. 23.5 x 33 cm. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. Archaeological (pyramid at Xochicalco with four figures in foreground).
 Restauracion de la Piràmide de Xochicalco. [below neatline] C. Nebel invt. | Lith. de Lemercier | F. Mialhe lith. 25 x 35.6 cm. Full color lithograph with gum arabic. Archaeological (front view of pyramid at Xochicalco with scale below).
 Bajo-Relievo de la Piramide de Xochicalco. [below neatline] Nebel del. | Arnout Lith. | Lith de Benard et Frey. Approximately 21.2 x 24 cm. Lithograph with grey tones. Archaeological detail of Xochicalco.
 Bajo-Relievo de la Piramide de Xachicalco [sic]. [below neatline] Nebel del. | Arnout lith. | Lith de Benard et Frey. Approximately 21.2 x 35.5 cm. Lithograph with grey tones. Archaeological detail of Xochicalco.
If ever a great book needed a complete bibliographical study, this one—the alpha nineteenth-century plate book of Mexico—would be a prime candidate. Nebel’s book first appeared in Paris with French text in 1836: Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dans la partie la plus intéressante du Méxique (see our Auction 22, Lot 435). Subsequently, an edition with Spanish text and imprint of Paris and Mexico City came out in 1839: Viaje pintoresco y arqueolojico sobre la parte mas interesante de la Republica Mejicana, en los años transcurridos desde 1829 hasta 1834). Copies of the Spanish-language edition are sometimes found with date of 1840 or no imprint. Bibliographical variations exist between copies and editions of this album, which are compounded by its rarity, immense popularity, various plagiarisms, and method of publication. The album first came out in fourteen fascicules, which the owner could bind upon completion. Some copies have text (number of pages of text vary); other copies have no text. Many variations exist for the captions on the plates. It has been suggested that the present copy might be a proof or trial copy, but we cannot state that with any certainty.
Ron Tyler in his introduction to the 1994 Texas State Historical Association reprint of the Kendall-Nebel portfolio on the Mexican-American War (see KENDALL herein) suggests that the Spanish edition may have been published by Nebel as part of an effort to prevent García Torres from copying his original work and publishing it in Mexico. Nebel was in Mexico in 1840 prosecuting a lawsuit against García Torres to prevent the appearance of the pirated edition. García Torres’ plagiarisms of Nebel’s work are documented, such as found in Jacques Bénigne Bossuet’s Vida de Jesucristo (Mexico: Vicente García Torres, 1842; see herein), the wrapper verso of which advertises the García Torres’ edition of Carlos Nebel’s Viage pintoresco y arqueólogico de Megico, with complete plate list and indication of plates that were colored in the French edition, and presumably colored in his. The publisher states:
According to Banco de México, Imágenes de México, Colección de grabados y litografias del Banco de México, other plagiarisms appeared in Mexico done by Lara and Cumplido.
Citations for the various editions are as follows:
Paris, 1836, French-language. Brunet VI, col. 28 (noting the work appeared in fourteen fascicules with four plates in each, with no mention of text and without setting out how many were colored, tinted, or uncolored; he also cites a copy with fifty colored plates and no mention of text, sold by Louis-Philippe for 199 francs). Colas II:24. Hiler, Bibliography of Costume, p. 645 (calling for fifty lithos, twenty of which are colored). Hill I, p. 209 (49 plates, 20 colored, plan, with note: “Some copies have a title page in Spanish”). Hill II:1216. Lipperheide 1623 (calling for fifty lithos, twenty of which are colored). Palau 188866 (calls for fifty plates without mentioning color and noting that some Paris editions are undated). Sabin 52177 (calls for fifty plates, not mentioning color, and states: “Some copies have a title-page in Spanish”).
Paris & Mexico, 1839, Spanish-language. Palau 188867 (calls for 50 plates and incorrectly dates the work as 1849). Sabin 52178 (calls for 50 colored plates). Porrúa 1963 reprint with introduction by Justino Fernández (reproducing what is said to be the 1839 Mexico & Paris edition).
Paris & Mexico, 1840, Spanish-language. Bernal 1820 (unspecified number of plates, noting that the first edition was in French and published at Paris in 1836). Porrúa-Robredo Catalogue 4498 (offering a Paris & Mexico edition, dated 1840, with plate list of forty-nine plates, indicating nineteen colored and remainder uncolored, lacking one plate).
Carl Nebel (1805-1855), German artist and architect, traveled in Mexico from 1829 to 1834, having been inspired by the work of the great savant Humboldt (see HUMBOLDT herein). The most spectacular result of Nebel’s journey to Mexico was the iconography found in the present album, which incorporated new technical innovations perfected by the French lithographer Lemercier. These lithographs are at once highly artistic, remarkably accurate, and incredibly valuable as documentation. “Nebel was one of many European artists intrigued by the landscape and peoples of the former Spanish empire in the Americas, barred from view for centuries, but from the 1820s onward open to both travel and investment, and of particular interest to the French and English. His book combines a taste for the picturesque with a clear-eyed evaluation of the country and its assets”—Miles and Reese, America Pictured to the Life 19.
Nebel recorded the ruins of indigenous civilizations as he found them. For instance, he visited the site of Tajín in 1831 and was the first to graphically and textually detail the Pyramid of the Niches, as well as the nearby ruins of Tusapan and Mapilca (Ellen S. Spinden, “The Place of Tajin in Totonac Archaeology” in American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 35, No. 2, April-June, 1933, pp. 225-270). Nebel’s urban views, through his academic understanding of the history of Mexico and his superb skill as an artist, created a sense of Mexican cities that was at once both realistic and romanticized. His work portrayed a Mexico of order, urbanity, architectural interest, and astonishing beauty.
Nebel’s depiction of horses and elaborate Mexican equestrian equipage is consummate. His plates of mounted Mexican groups (El Hacendado y su Mayordomo and Rancheros) were as influential in establishing the stereotypical ranching iconography as English artist Smyth’s well-known image of Californianos throwing the lasso. El Paso artist José Cisneros commented that of all the illustrators of horses and equipage, he judged Nebel’s the most accurate and beautiful. Some of Nebel’s images of women, such as a female tortillera in a state of dishabille and pretty senoritas smoking in a doorway, are compelling and arousing, to say the very least.
Perhaps Nebel’s greatest achievement was his authentic rendering of the peoples of different classes and regions of Mexico and their clothing, accoutrements, material culture, and customs. Nebel used clothing to delineate race, class, and identity (see Rebecca Earle, “‘Two Pairs of Pink Satin Shoes!!’ Race, Clothing and Identity in the Americas (17th-19th Centuries)” in History Workshop Journal, No. 52, Autumn, 2001, p. 181). Nebel’s images of costume groups in Mexico are considered the very best of the era, leaving an indelible record of the rich tapestry and vibrant color of Mexican life. What Humboldt did for the cartography and archaeology of Mexico, Nebel achieved in his iconographic documentation of the social life of Mexico.
Nebel’s images were widely copied for decades, most often without attribution, by illustrators from all parts of the world. If it is true that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then truly, Nebel was the most flattered delineator of Mexico and Mexicans in the nineteenth-century and beyond. His images were continuously recycled by others, but never so exquisitely as in the original editions.
Sold. Hammer: $40,000.00; Price Realized: $49,000.00.
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