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The Horse in Motion

MUYBRIDGE, EADWEARD. A spectacular collection of three Horse in Motion photographs.

San Francisco: Morse’s Gallery, 1878

Three albumen prints (approx. 8 x 3 1⁄2 in.), on original publisher’s mounts printed on recto and verso, each a composite image of 6 or 12 photographs. Light wear and soiling, some fading and foxing. Very good condition.

Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of horses in motion are icons in the history of photography. This landmark photograph was recently included in 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time (2016).

Leland Stanford, railroad magnate and owner of the greatest racing stable in the West, engaged Muybridge to undertake pioneering experiments in instantaneous and sequential photography of horses. Stanford was in part motivated by the “unsupported transit” controversy—are there moments when all four of a horse’s feet leave the ground while trotting or galloping? On June 15, 1878, Muybridge demonstrated his method using a battery of twelve cameras whose shutters were released by a series of tripwires as the horse raced down the track. Over the next few days Muybridge made six sequences of various horses in motion.

“Muybridge’s Horse in Motion grids were the most sensational photographs of their day. Contemporaneous accounts describe crowds gathering outside shop windows in which they were displayed” (Prodger in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography). The six photographs in the series are listed on the mounts: Mahomet cantering, Occident trotting, three views of Abe Edgington trotting, and Sallie Gardner running. Muybridge announces that six “series”—meaning a single print containing a series of photographs of a horse—“are now published.” Individual photographs appear for sale occasionally, but groups are quite rare. We offer three of the six, the largest group we have ever seen for sale.

“Muybridge’s 1878-79 experiments were the first photographs to record such specific information about the attitudes of animals and people in motion” (Brookman, Eadweard Muybridge). The printed captions provide a wealth of detail. One states in small part, “The negatives of these photographs were made of intervals of twenty- seven inches of distance, and about the twenty-fifth part of a second of time; they illustrate consecutive positions assumed in each twenty-seven inches of progress during a single stride of the mare. The vertical lines were twenty-seven inches apart; the horizontal lines represent elevations of four inches each. The exposure of each negative was less than the two thousandth part of a second.” “Not only did the sequences of photographs dissect rapid motion, they also presented a mechanical, scientific view of action the human eye simply could not decode on its own” (Brookman).

Muybridge issued these photographs to document and promote his accomplishment. A series of drawings from the photographs appeared in Scientific American, and La Nature in Paris published five of the sequences.Muybridge’s studies of animals in motion culminated in the publication of his Animal Locomotion in 1888.

This is an outstanding series of photographs representing a milestone in the history of photography.

The collection comprises:

1. The Horse in Motion … “Sallie Gardner,” owned by Leland Stanford; running at a 1.40 gait over the Palo Alto track, 19th June, 1878. Verso text copyright 1879.

2. The Horse in Motion. “Mahomet,” owned by Leland Stanford; cantering at 8 minute gait over the Palo Alto track, 18th June, 1878.

3. The Horse in Motion: “Abe Edgington,” owned by Leland Stanford; driven by C. Marvin, walking at a 15-minute gait over the Palo Alto track, 18th June 1878.

$28,000