Alberto Henschel

Last updated

Alberto Henschel
Alberto Henschel.jpg
The photographers Alberto Henschel (right) and Constantino Barza, in 1870
Born13 June 1827
Berlin, Germany
Died30 June 1882(1882-06-30) (aged 55)
Nationality German-Brazilian
OccupationBusinessman and photographer
TitlePhotographo da Casa Imperial (Photographer of the Royal House)

Alberto Henschel (13 June 1827 [1] – 30 June 1882 [2] ) was a German-Brazilian photographer born in Berlin. Considered the hardest-working photographer and businessman in 19th-century Brazil, [3] with offices in Pernambuco, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo, [4] Henschel was also responsible for the presence of other professional photographers in the country, including his compatriot Karl Ernst Papf—with whom he later worked. [3]


Henschel became known for making pictorial representations of Rio de Janeiro as a landscaper photographer [1] [5] and for being an excellent portraitist. [6] He earned the title of Photographo da Casa Imperial (Photographer of the Royal House), [1] allowing him to photograph the everyday life of the Brazilian monarchy during the Reign of Pedro II, even photographing the emperor Dom Pedro II [7] and his family. [8] This title would give his photographs increased recognition and raise their price. [9]

But his principal contribution to the history of Brazilian photography is his photographic record of the different social classes in Brazil in the 19th century: portraits, usually in the carte de visite format, taken of the nobility, of rich tradesmen, of the middle-class, and of black people, either slaves or free, [2] in a period before the Lei Áurea .


Xylography of an armadillo, one of the most exotic animals seen by Hans Staden in Brazil (1557) Ic000006tatu.gif
Xylography of an armadillo, one of the most exotic animals seen by Hans Staden in Brazil (1557)

As soon as the first world maps showing Brazil were printed in the Renaissance era of Albrecht Dürer, the recently discovered country aroused the interest of the German public. [3] Among the first attractions were the enthusiastic descriptions and illustrations [10] of the Indians, the exotic landscapes, the abundance of wild animals and the new species of plants [3] first conveyed in the works of Hans Staden. This was followed by the writings of adventurers and scientists such as Johann Baptist Emanuel Pohl, author of Viagem no Interior do Brasil, Empreendida nos Anos de 1817 a 1821 e Publicada por Ordem de Sua Majestade o Imperador da Áustria Francisco Primeiro (Voyage in the Interior of Brazil. Launched in the Years of 1817 to 1821 and Published by the Order of His Majesty the Emperor of Austria Franscisco First), [11] in which he describes his journey through the country with wonder and enthusiasm, his words accompanied by luxuriant illustrations. [10] About Rio de Janeiro, Pohl wrote:

If some place in the New World deserves, for its location and natural conditions, to become one day a theater of big events, a center of civilization and culture, an emporium of worldwide commerce, it is, in my opinion, Rio de Janeiro. I cannot, here, repress this observation. Willingly hovers the fantasy on the future of such charming country, that is at present little developed and, so to speak, does not have a past.
—Johann Emmanuel Pohl [12]

Certainly these narrations and illustrations were the principal attractions for those German photographers of the 19th century that moved to Brazil, such as Revert Henrique Klumb, Augusto Stahl, Karl Ernst Papf, and Alberto Henschel. [10]


In Germany

Alberto Henschel was born 13 June 1827 in Berlin to Moritz and Helene Henschel. Moritz and his brothers August, Friedrich, and Wilhelm, of Jewish origin, had arrived in Berlin around 1806. They were recognized as engravers and signed their works as the Henschel Brothers. There are no records of Alberto Henschel's person or professional life in Germany or his reasons for emigrating to Brazil. [1]

It has been assumed that Alberto Henschel also met the photographer Francisco Benque while still in Germany, with whom he had a successful, but short-lived, relationship in Brazil. [13]

In Brazil


Nude of young Black girl. Salvador, province of Bahia (1869) Alberto Henschel Bahia 2.jpg
Nude of young Black girl. Salvador, province of Bahia (1869)

Henschel and his associate Karl Heinrich Gutzlaff disembarked in Recife in May 1866, intending to create a photographic studio on Imperador street, number 38. [1] Initially named Alberto Henschel & Cia, the studio became Photographia Allemã (German Photography), next changing to a new address on the Matriz de Santo Antônio square, number 2. [4] Because he was able to build up his business quickly when he came, it is assumed that Henschel was already an experienced photographer and intended to build a promising business in photography in this new market that was still so little explored. [1]

In 1867, Henschel separated from Gutzlaff and returned to Germany where he updated his technique and acquired new equipment for his atelier of photography. [1] He returned to Brazil in the same year, opening another establishment with the same company name in the city of Salvador, on Piedade street, number 16. [4] By opening three establishments in only two years, Henschel was thought of as the most audacious and sagacious photographic businessman in 19th century Brazil. [14]

By the end of the 1860s, Henschel's houses of Recife and Salvador were already making portraits of people of African origin, slaves and free, differing from other photographers by portraying them freely and with dignity as people and not as objects. [15]


In 1870, Henschel opened another subsidiary of his atelier, this time in Rio de Janeiro, on Ourives street (nowadays Miguel Couto street, number 40). [4] It was in Rio, capital of the Empire, where he started his prosperous partnership with Francisco Benque. With the name of Henschel & Benque, it specialized in the production and marketing of portraits, landscapes, and the photopaintings made by Karl Ernst Papf, [15] whose presence in Brazil was due to Henschel. [3] There are no records dating when the relationship with Benque crumbled; it is probable that their association remained until 1880. [4]

Black saleswoman of fruits. Rio de Janeiro (1870) Alberto Henschel - Negra vendedora.jpg
Black saleswoman of fruits. Rio de Janeiro (1870)

Because of the quality of his work and his success in the Court, Henschel received the title of Photographo da Casa Imperial (Photographer of the Royal House) on 7 September 1874, together with Benque, [4] which would give his photographs increased recognition and raise their price. [9] The historian photographer Gilberto Ferrez describes the quality and importance of Henschel as follows:

Henschel photographed Rio and its surroundings [...]. He made landscapes, but above all he was a distinguished portraitist. There is almost no family album where no portraits of grandparents were done by Alberto Henschel.

—Gilberto Ferrez [6]
Photo of Dom Pedro II. Rio de Janeiro (1875) Alberto Henschel - Dom Pedro II.jpg
Photo of Dom Pedro II. Rio de Janeiro (1875)

Henschel participated in many exhibitions of photographs, standing out in the exposition of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in 1872 and 1875, [4] for which he received the Gold Medal in the first edition. [15] He also participated in the IV National Exposition and the Universal Exposition of Vienna, in Austria, where he received the Merit Medal. [4]


On 1 February 1882, [b] Henschel inaugurated another establishment, this time in the capital of the province of São Paulo. [14] He gave it the name Photographia Imperial (Imperial Photography) because the name Photographia Allemã had already been used since 1875 by the atelier of the photographer Carlos Hoenen. [16] His arrival in São Paulo was considered important because, besides being holder of the prestigious title of Photographo da Casa Imperial, he came directly from the Court. The newspaper A Província de São Paulo (currently O Estado de S. Paulo ), while describing with minimal details the new atelier in its inaugural day edition, related the enthusiasm with which Henschel was received by the residents of São Paulo. [14]

Henschel died in Rio de Janeiro that same year, [a] only some months after establishing himself in São Paulo. However, his companies, under the command of other businessmen, continued to strategically use his name for many years, taking advantage of the great prestige that the mark "Henschel" had acquired. [15]


Portrait of Castro Alves (1870) Alberto Henschel - Castro Alves.jpg
Portrait of Castro Alves (1870)

Henschel was considered the hardest-working photographer and businessman in 19th-century Brazil. [3] He always remained up-to-date with the latest techniques on the photography market. [15] By the time the aesthetic format of photography carte de visite became popular, Henschel was already dominating this technique which he used frequently in his establishments. [15]

His studios possessed the latest equipment appropriate for the instantaneous portraits of children who, never still, were the headaches of the photographers. [15] In his announcement in the Novo Almanach de São Paulo para o Anno de 1883 (New Almanac of São Paulo for the Year of 1883), Henschel advertised:

This establishment just received from Europe the negatives for the new process of instantaneous photographies that have so much success there. Through these chichets one can obtain a more perfect portrait of a moving child, of nervous people... The public is invited to come examine in the establishment some portraits obtained by the new process. [16]

The new process referred to in the announcement was the use of dry slabs of transparent gelatin, used as an adhesive layer for the fixation of the silver salts over the paper. [17]

He photographed all the different social classes of Brazil in the 19th century. Besides the Brazilian monarchy and black people, he also photographed the nobility, the rich tradesmen and their families, and the white middle-class. [2]


Related Research Articles

Marc Ferrez (photographer) Brazilian photographer

Marc Ferrez was a Brazilian photographer born in Rio de Janeiro.

Hércules Florence French artist, photographer and inventor

Antoine Hercule Romuald Florence was a Monegasque-Brazilian painter and inventor, known as the isolate inventor of photography in Brazil, three years before Daguerre, using the matrix negative/positive, still in use. According to Kossoy, who examined Florence's notes, he referred to his process, in French, as photographie in 1834, at least four years before John Herschel coined the English word photography.

Karl Ernst Papf German painter and draftsman

Karl Ernst Papf, or Ernesto Papf was a German-born Brazilian photographer, painter and designer.

Revert Henrique Klumb Brazilian photographer and painter

Revert Henrique Klumb was a renowned German-Brazilian photographer who operated in Brazil in the 19th century. Probably the introducer of the stereoscopic photography in the country, Klumb obtained the title of Photographo da Casa Imperial in Rio de Janeiro. He was the author of the photography book Doze Horas em Diligência. Guia do Viajante de Petrópolis a Juiz de Fora, that became one of the pioneers of the edition of photography books in Brazil.

Augusto Stahl Brazilian photographer

Theóphile Auguste Stahl or simply Augusto Stahl, as he was known in Brazil, was a French photographer who lived during the 19th century. Born in Bergamo, in Italy, son of a Lutheran priest, Stahl disembarked in Recife on December 31, 1853, on board the ship Thames, of the Royal Mail. He operated in Pernambuco until 1861, moving to Rio de Janeiro and receiving from the emperor D. Pedro II the title of Photographo da Casa Imperial, on April 21, 1862. A landscaper photographer, Stahl demonstrated interest for the tropical nature. He also documented the construction of the second Brazilian railway and the visit of Dom Pedro II to Recife, in 1858. He participated in various expositions of photographies in the 1860s. Stahl is known also for portraiting the everyday life of the Black slave.

Franz Benque German photographer

Franz Benque, known in Brazil as Francisco Benque, was a German photographer.

Claudio Edinger Brazilian photographer

Claudio Edinger is a Brazilian photographer born in Rio de Janeiro in 1952. He lived in New York from 1976 to 1996.

Pedro Lobo is a Brazilian photographer. He currently lives in Portugal.

The Brazilian Anthropological Exhibition of 1882 was one of the most important scientific events of the 19th-century Brazil, conducted by the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro and heavily influenced by Darwinism.

Emil Bauch painter

Emil Bauch was a German painter, lithographer and teacher who came to reside in the city of Rio de Janeiro. He painted panoramic city scenes and portraits, as well as some views of Recife and Salvador. His landscapes are conspicuous by his close observation of all the details and the intense variety of motifs of his palette. His works have all but disappeared in the shadow of paintings created by other artists during the second half of the nineteenth century in Brazil.

André Cypriano is a documentary and fine art photographer, known for his photography of traditional lifestyles and practices of lesser known societies in remote corners of the world.

Marc Ferrez was a French sculptor and engraver who spent a large part of his career in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sérgio Valle Duarte Brazilian artist

Sergio Valle Duarte (born September 26, 1954), also known as Sergio Duarte, is a Brazilian multimedia artist and fine-art photographer.

Franz Weissmann Austrian sculptor and painter, active in Brazil

Franz Josef Weissmann was a Brazilian sculptor born in Austria, emigrating to Brazil while he was eleven years old. Geometric shapes, like cubes and squares, are strongly featured in his works. He was one of the founders of the Neo-Concrete Movement.

Maria Lynch is a Brazilian artist.

Rosângela Rennó Gomes is a Brazilian artist who lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. Her work consists of photographic images from public and private archives that question the nature of an image and its symbolic value. With the use of photographs, installations and objects, she appropriates and sheds new light on an anonymous body of photographs and negatives found mostly in flea markets, family albums, newspapers and archives. Rennó's interest in discarded images and habit of collecting were decisive in establishing her work strategies.

Geraldo de Barros was a Brazilian painter and photographer who also worked in engraving, graphic arts, and industrial design. He was a leader of the concrete art movement in Brazil, co-founding Grupo Ruptura and was known for his trailblazing work in experimental abstract photography and modernism. According to The Guardian, De Barros was "one of the most influential Brazilian artists of the 20th century."

Maria Beatriz Fonseca Corrêa do Lago, better known as Bia Corrêa do Lago is a Brazilian writer, journalist and researcher. She is the daughter of writer Rubem Fonseca, who was awarded the highest literary award in the Portuguese language – the Prêmio Camões – and is the author of numerous books, including Agosto, O Caso Morel, O Cobrador, and Bufo & Spallanzani.

Sheila Maureen Bisilliat is an English-born Brazilian photographer.

Militão Augusto de Azevedo Brazilian photographer

Militão Augusto de Azevedo was a Brazilian photographer and actor active in the second half of the 19th century. Militão founded the Photographia Americana studio in 1875, where his clients included Castro Alves, Joaquim Nabuco, Dom Pedro II, and Empress Teresa Cristina. His rates were among the lowest in the city. The location of the studio in front of the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, frequented mainly by the Afro-Brazilian residents, led to his photography of prominent Black citizens of Brazil. He depicted Afro-Brazilians not as slaves, but as ordinary citizens. His other works were of singers and theater artists.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ermakoff 2004, p. 174.
  2. 1 2 3 Ermakoff 2004, p. 175.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Vasquez 2000, p. 11.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Vasquez 2000, p. 109.
  5. CCBA - Centro Cultural Brasil-Alemanha. "Conheça os fotógrafos, Alberto Henschel" (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
  6. 1 2 Ferrez 1953, p. 82.
  7. Vasquez 2000, p. 114.
  8. Vasquez 2000, p. 115.
  9. 1 2 Muaze, Mariana de Aguiar Ferreira (2006). "Os guardados da viscondessa: fotografia e memória na coleção Ribeiro de Avellar". Anais do Museu Paulista: História e Cultura Material (in Portuguese). São Paulo. 14 (2): 73–105. doi: 10.1590/S0101-47142006000200004 . ISSN   0101-4714.
  10. 1 2 3 Vasquez 2000, p. 13.
  11. Vasquez 2000, p. 12.
  12. Pohl, Johann Emmanuel (1951). Viagem no Interior do Brasil. Empreendida nos Anos de 1817 a 1821 e Publicada por Ordem de Sua Majestade o Imperador da Áustria Francisco Primeiro. 1. Rio de Janeiro: Ministério da Cultura (Ministry of Culture)., p. 74
  13. Schaukal, Barbara. "Sebastianutti & Benque – Five Photographers. Four Generations. Three Continents" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2008-04-03.
  14. 1 2 3 Vasquez 2000, p. 110.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Albert Henschel: Comentário Crítico" (in Portuguese). Itaú Cultural. Retrieved 2008-04-11.
  16. 1 2 Vasquez 2000, p. 111.
  17. Vasquez 2000, p. 194.
Bibliographic References

Further reading