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The Walnut Tree of Emperor Charles V, Yuste

The Walnut Tree of Emperor Charles V, Yuste

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In May 1858, Clifford accompanied the Duke of Frías on a trip to Toledo and Extremadura. One of the principal goals of the excursion was the remote town of Yuste, where the king of Spain, Charles I (better known as the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V), had retired. During the eighteen months prior to his death in 1558, the former ruler of the largest empire the world had ever known resided there at the Hieronymite monastery. Perhaps in homage to his death three hundred years earlier, Clifford made two darkling views of the ruinous monastery in which gloomy, hooded monks appear. He also made this photograph, of a magnificent old tree, known as the Emperor's Walnut Tree, whose branches trap the sun, creating a sanctuary of shade. Whether the emperor had some historic relation to it, or whether the association arose from the natural parallel between the ancient, still-powerful tree and the living power of a legend is debatable, but in either case Clifford's image is manifestly a portrait of greatness.
Charles Clifford (Welsh, 1819–1863)

With the invention of photography, the eighteenth-century British passion for recording exotic lands and studies of the peoples in India was given new impetus. The earliest photography on the continent dates from 1840 in Calcutta, the political center of British India. The technology for photography arrived in India quickly became popular among the local rulers-many of whom employed photographers at their courts-as well as the British who had come to make their fortunes in the colony. For both populations, the new medium replaced painting as the method for recording the local landscape, architecture, people, and important events.





The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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