Palace of the Governor, Uxmal, Mexico

Désiré Charnay (French, 1828–1915)


Image: 43.5 x 33.1 cm (17 1/8 x 13 1/16 in.) Sheet: 70.4 x 53.9 cm (27 11/16 x 21 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, albumen print from wet-collordion-on-glass negative

Not On View


Europe, Photography



The adventurer Désiré Charnay was inspired to photograph Mayan ruins in Mexico by Frederick Catherwood’s daguerreotypes from his 1841 exploration of the Yucatán with John Lloyd Stephens. Charnay wrote of the difficulties of using the wet plate process in the intense heat at Uxmal: either the collodion dried too quickly or the chemicals decomposed. Still, he found it preferable to the paper process for achieving the sharpest possible recording of architectural detail and inscriptions. In this photograph of the governor’s palace, the careful stonework that animates the building’s surface is fully revealed by Charnay’s skillfully modulated exposure.


LL, in ink: Charnay, photogr./Pl. 47./Gide, editeur, Paris/Palais du Gouverneur, A Uxmal./Detail de la porte principale. Verso, in left margin, in graphite: 6000 U.S. [...] (indecipherable).


Robert Hershkowitz Ltd., Sussex, England; from whom purchased by MFA, June 2000.

Credit Line

Charles Amos Cummings Fund