Peter Nissen (German)
Circus animals, goat pulling a tiger in a cart, with two dogs from Carl Hagenbeck's Zoologischer Circus, 1891
22.3 x 28.7 cm mounted on 28.4 x 33.8 cm card, ruled in red
Dated "1891" in the negative, and photographer's blindstamp. Stamped "Photographiesches-Atelier von Peter Nissen, Reeperbahn 28 Hamburg, St. Pauli" in ink on verso.
Wild animals tamed by zookeeper and photographer, this is a rare portfolio of live animal scenes from Carl Hagenbeck’s famous Zoological Circus. Hagenbeck (1844–1913) was an internationally known German animal dealer and trainer, whose fishmonger father had run a second business trading in exotic animals. Hagenbeck Junior accompanied explorers and hunters to bring back animals (and occasionally humans) from exotic locations to exhibit in Europe and the United States. He believed in controlling the animals by befriending them, emphasizing their intelligence and tractability over their ferocity. In 1889 he introduced a lion act in which, as a finale, three lions pulled him around the cage in a chariot. He trained animals to display and sell to circuses at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1893, and the Louisiana Exhibition in St. Louis in 1904. He also supplied many zoos, as well as P. T. Barnum, and created the modern zoo with animal enclosures with moats rather than bars that were closer to the animals’ natural habitat. The Tierpark Hagenbeck still exists in Hamburg today.
This series of photographs tested Peter Nissen to the limit. In order to capture and tame the beasts in action for his audience he adopted every trick available to the analogue photographer of the 19th century. In some photographs the wild beasts are more appealingly fluffy than usual as they breathe and move during the lengthy exposures; in others whole animals or large portions of an animal have clearly been added to the negative by hand or montaged together in one print from multiple negatives. This portfolio is a wonderful, rare hybrid of the real and the surreal in zoological and photographic history.
Also included are two albumen prints of circus animals by Heinrich Johan Barby (Danish, 1858-1930), each 17.1 x 23.2 cm mounted on card with printed credit "H. J. Barby, Gl. Kongevej 178" on mount.