John Thomson (British, 1837-1921) The magic lantern peepshow
Lot 53
John Thomson, FRGS (British, 1837-1921) 'Magic Lantern' Peep Show
Sold for £21,600 (US$ 34,036) inc. premium

Lot Details
John Thomson, FRGS (British, 1837-1921)
'Magic Lantern' Peep Show
signed and dated 'J. Thomson/F.R.G.S./1877' (lower right)
oil on canvas
51 x 61cm (20 1/16 x 24in).

Footnotes

  • Born in Edinburgh, Thomson departed for Singapore, where his elder brother William worked as a watchmaker, in 1862. John and his brother jointly operated a successful chronometer and nautical instrument business, and it was during this period that he started to explore the rural settlements, taking a keen interest in photographing the populace engaged in their daily activities. He briefly returned to England, where he was elected to the Royal Geographical Society in 1866, but left again for Singapore in 1867.

    From late 1870 to early 1871 Thomson travelled extensively in the Fuzhou (Foochow) region; he travelled up the River Min with the American missionary the Rev. Justus Doolittle and then to Amoy and Swatow. An album of eighty photographs were published privately by subscription (London, 1873), one of which was sold in these rooms on 10 May 2005. One of the best-known of these images, and a very similar composition, bears the same title as the present lot and is also reproduced in his 1899 publication Through China with a Camera as Peking Peep Show.

    Thomson describes the busy city street: "there are peep-shows, jugglers, lottery-men, ballad-singers and story-tellers" (p.243). "Magic lantern" shows were a novelty in China at this time and attracted a mass popular audience. People in China who had never travelled could learn about foreign places through the slide show, discovering the world beyond the confines of their home village or region. Often a showman delivered a running commentary on the mysterious scenes as he introduced them; sometimes there was even music accompaniment. To attract customers, many presenters also included a few images of naked women in the middle or at the end of a show: "and as for the peep-shows — well, the less one says about them the better; they certainly would not be tolerated in any public thoroughfare in Europe" (Ibid. p.244).

Saleroom notices

  • PROVENANCE: David McLean (1833-1908), first manager of the Shanghai office of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank 1865-1873 and manager of the bank's London office 1873-1899, and thence by descent to the current owner
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Similar Items