25 January 2020

The Great War by Louis Provot

The Great War by Louis Provot - Black & White Photography and Stereoscopy Blog

A rare wooden box with a hundred 45x107 glass stereoviews with images of the First World War and a basic handheld stereoscope.

There's a retailer stamp inside the box:

Louis Provot - Edition Stéréoscopique - 52, Rue Ordener, Paris - XVIII°


Louis Provot sold stereoview collections in the 1920s in wooden boxes of 50, 100 and 200 slides. The boxes with 100 and 200 slides contained a Unis France handheld stereoscope. A leaflet with an overview of the battles and campaigns was probably also included, but is missing in my collection. I haven't found any advertisements or other information about this retailer. The only trace I found is a message in the newspaper Le Petit Parisien of 15 December 1925: Provot of 52, Rue Ordener asks people to look out for his lost dog. The informer will be rewarded...

Louis Provot stamp
Louis Provot stamp

The Louis Provot collection

The most important question for me was: are the stereoviews in the box part of the original purchase, or is it through the years filled with random collections. If they were part of the original purchase, it gives a good insight into the sale of stereoviews after the war and I have reasons to believe that this is indeed the case.

First of all, all stereoviews are produced by the same manufacturer: Brentano’s from Paris. I was able to trace 40% of the slides to this manufacturer by the list of The Great War in 3D. The remaining 60% contain the same handwritten descriptions or have other style attributes that are characteristic for Brentano’s. Slides of the other major manufacturer La Stéréoscopie Universelle were not found in this collection. This would likely be the case if the box was filled with random slides.

Louis Provot collection - stereoview with handwritten description
Stereoview with handwritten description

The second reason is the common themes of the images. Sellers like Photo-Plait offered the possibility to buy stereoviews in series or even individually. My assumption is that Louis Provot's boxes were meant to offer a complete collection with an overview of the war. The enclosed stereoscope enabled the buyer to get started right away.

It appears that the stereoviews in the box indeed give a good impression of the Western Front in France and Belgium, mainly focussed on the military operations of the French army. The most important battles and themes are present. An overview of the collection:

Battle/campaignSlides
Verdun20
Les Éparges15
Champagne9
Aisne9
Belgium front6
Victory/armistice6
Somme5
Marne4
Artois3
Argonne1
Alsace/Vosges1
Meuse1
Miscellaneous20
Total:100

The category Miscellaneous covers the themes: mobilisation, the German emperor Wilhelm II, the life of the French soldier, aircraft etc.. All in all a very complete picture of the war. My conclusion is that the box contains its original collection and that makes it a cherished collector's item.

Impression

Au moulin de Laffaux
Au moulin de Laffaux (Aisne)
45x107 glass stereoview by Brentano's
Aux Éparges - Corvée de jus
Aux Éparges - Corvée de jus
45x107 glass stereoview by Brentano's
Aisne - Blessé Allemands
Aisne - Blessé Allemands
45x107 glass stereoview by Brentano's

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